A college professor from Kansas who refused to call transgender or non-binary students by their preferred names and pronouns was rewarded financially for her disregard for school district policy — by the school district.

Teacher Pamela Ricard will receive $95,000 from her employer, Geary County Schools, as part of a settlement of a lawsuit she filed against the district for disciplining her for failing to follow district policy . She claimed that following the policy of addressing students by their preferred names and pronouns violated her religious beliefs.

Geary County is located in central Kansas, southwest of Manhattan, home to Kansas State University.

This is the latest round in a national battle between religious and political conservatives who are resisting the growing awareness of transgender and non-binary identity.

It’s the last round of a national battle between religious and political conservatives resisting the growing awareness of transgender and non-binary identity. Republican state governors and lawmakers across the country, backed by evangelical Christians, have enacted dozens of laws targeting transgender children and their families. This part of the culture wars has spilled over into public schools, which are the target of political campaigns organized to halt advances in equity, diversity and inclusion.

It is against this backdrop of being responsive to non-binary students that Geary County schools have adopted a policy requiring teachers and administrators to refer to students by their preferred names and pronouns.

Pamela Ricard

The suit brought by Ricard explains that a pupil who appeared in the school registers as a woman preferred to be addressed by a name different from that indicated in the official file and not as a woman. Despite this knowledge, Ricard repeatedly called the student “Miss (surname)”.

Ricard recognizes in the trial that school officials repeatedly asked her not to offend the student in this way, but she refused to change. In April 2021, the teacher was suspended three days with pay for violating 11 district policies, including rules on bullying, diversity and inclusion.

With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, one of the evangelical advocacy groups pushing many conservative cases through the court system, Ricard filed a lawsuit, alleging a violation of religious freedom.

“Any policy that requires Ms. Ricard to refer to a student with a gendered, non-binary or plural pronoun (e.g., he/him, she/her, they/them, zhe/zher, etc.) or a greeting (M. . , Miss, Mrs) or other gendered language different from the student’s biological sex actively violates Ms. Ricard’s religious beliefs,” the lawsuit said.

In other words, the student was not the victim here, says Ricard, but she, as a teacher, was the victim of an inadmissible district policy.

How to address other people in conversation is not a matter of doctrine for any religious body in the United States, although several conservative faith bodies and non-denominational groups have taken positions that there is only two sexes, fixed at birth and determined by God.

“Ms. Ricard believes that God created the human being as male or female, that this sex is fixed in each person from the moment of conception.

The original lawsuit stated: “Mrs. Ricard is a Christian and holds sincere religious beliefs consistent with the traditional Christian and biblical understanding of the human person and biological sex. Mrs. Ricard believes that God created human beings as male or female, that this sex is fixed in each person from the moment of conception and cannot be changed, regardless of feelings, desires or a person’s preferences.

At a school board meeting, Ricard requested a religious exemption from the district’s policy on addressing students by their preferred names and pronouns. After deliberation, this request was rejected.

A list of factual allegations given by Ricard and his lawyers in the original filing indicates that Ricard “believes, based on scientific evidence, that children do not have a fully developed capacity to understand the long-term consequences of their decisions” and that as teacher “wants to protect children from making potentially irreversible and life-altering decisions that they may later regret.

The court filing repeatedly uses the term “based on scientific evidence” to support Ricard’s views. What constitutes “scientific evidence” regarding gender identity is a hotly debated issue in American culture today. A growing body of scientific and medical research confirms that gender dysphoria is real and life-threatening.

“Your beliefs do not allow you to refuse to recognize who is a student.”

“We know from research, long-term and very powerful research, that affirming a young person’s gender leads to better health and well-being,” said Joel Baum, senior director of the organization. non-profit Gender Spectrum. CNN. “It is about fundamental rights and the dignity of a human being. Your beliefs do not allow you to refuse to recognize who is a student.

The American Psychological Association, The American Medical Association and the Pediatric Endocrine Society, along with dozens of other medical associations, have officially recognized the importance of affirming a young person’s name and pronouns, Baum told CNN.

The consequences of ignoring gender dysphoria, even in young children, are associated with significantly higher rates of suicide attempts and success.

Geary County Schools opted to settle the lawsuit with Ricard rather than continue with the lawsuit after the US District Court for the District of Kansas in May allowed Ricard’s lawsuit, suggesting she was likely to prevail on his claim to the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment.

Again, this touches on a of the most contentious areas of religious liberty law in America today, conservative evangelicals asserting their right to freely exercise their religious beliefs – even if they are harmful to others – take precedence over the prohibition of an “establishment of religion by the First Amendment.

Several recent cases in the United States Supreme Court have resulted from such claims, including Kennedy v. Bremerton School Districtin which the new ultra-conservative High Court majority ruled that an assistant high school football coach should be allowed to lead Christian prayers on the 50-yard line after games.

The move was widely denounced by mainstream religious freedom advocates, but it was welcomed by groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom, which has another such case pending before the Supreme Court. In this case, a graphic designer who wants to be hired by the public says she can’t because she won’t agree to work designing wedding websites for same-sex couples, which would put her in violation of a Colorado law that was previously at the center of a Supreme Court case brought by a wedding cake baker.

Alliance Defending Freedom has other abortion-related cases, the rights of a pharmacist to refuse to dispense certain medications due to religious beliefs, and the rights of a wedding photographer not to work with same-sex weddings. The nonprofit organization represented the state of Mississippi in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationthe case the Supreme Court used in June to strike down 50 years of legal access to abortion nationwide.

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