Teacher suspended for refusing to use student’s preferred pronouns wins award

Kansas teacher Pamela Ricard recently made headlines when she sued her school district, Geary County Schools, after they gave her a three-day suspension for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns.

Ricard explained the situation, saying she had been disciplined “for addressing a biologically female student by the student’s legal and enrolled last name,” via the New York Post.

Teaching at Fort Riley Middle School, Ricard learned from a school counselor that a student wanted to be addressed by a different first name and preferred pronouns (he/him), despite being biologically female.

Credit: Getty,

Due to her religious beliefs, Ricard chose to refer to the student as “Miss [legal/enrolled last name]” to navigate the situation without using the student’s new preferred first name, seeing this as a compromise.

Although no specific policy addressed this scenario, Ricard faced suspension and reprimand under broad school district policies related to staff bullying, as outlined in the lawsuit. After she returned from her suspension a new policy was brought in, requiring teachers to use the pronouns requested by pupils.

Ricard’s lawsuit argued that this policy went against her conscience, given that her Christian beliefs aligned with traditional views on human biology and gender. The lawsuit stated: “Ms. Ricard 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.”

Following federal court proceedings, Ricard was eventually awarded $95,000, according to CBS News. Her attorneys emphasized that she could communicate with parents in a manner consistent with her beliefs and could continue to refrain from using pronouns inconsistent with students’ biological sex.

Credit: Getty.

Additionally, the new policy banned staff from disclosing students’ preferred names and pronouns to parents, a provision also struck down by the court.

The school district has refused to comment on the matter, leaving the status of current policies uncertain.

This settlement raises questions about the balance between accommodating students’ preferences and respecting educators’ religious beliefs, and only serves to highlight just how complex it is to navigate issues related to gender identity and religious freedom.

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