Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

A Kansas school district agreed to pay a former middle school teacher $95,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the teacher after she was suspended and reprimanded for not using a student’s “preferred pronouns.”

According to the teacher’s complaint,

In the spring semester of 2021, middle school administrators began issuing “diversity and equity” training and emails to middle school teachers, including [the plaintiff], directing teachers to use students’ “preferred names” in lieu of a student’s name as listed in the District’s enrollment records or legal name. In April 2021, Defendants suspended Ms. Ricard for three-days and issued a formal written reprimand for addressing a biologically female student by the student’s legal and enrolled last name.

The teacher’s attorneys claim that forcing their client to participate in this policy violates her religious beliefs:

[The plaintiff] is a Christian and holds sincere religious beliefs consistent with the traditional Christian and biblical understanding of the human person and biological sex. [The plaintiff] believes that God created human beings as either male or female, that this sex is fixed in each person from the moment of conception, and that it cannot be changed, regardless of an individual person’s feelings, desires, or preferences. Any policy that requires [the plaintiff] to refer to a student by a gendered, non-binary, or plural pronoun (e.g., he/him, she/her, they/them, zhe/zher, etc.) or salutation (Mr., Miss, Ms.) or other gendered language that is different from the student’s biological sex actively violates [her] religious beliefs.

The teacher’s complaint contends that the school district violated her rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and also constitute of breach of her employment contract.

In a statement on Aug. 31, the teacher’s attorneys issued a statement stating that the defendants “have agreed to pay $95,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees for violating a math teacher’s First Amendment rights when they reprimanded and suspended her for addressing a student by the student’s legal and enrolled name and forced her to conceal the student’s social transition from the student’s parents.” Additionally, school officials agreed to issue a statement that the teacher was in good standing without any disciplinary actions against her at the time she retired in May.