Kansas Teacher Suspended For Refusing to Call Female Pupil 'Mr' Sues School District
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Arguments over the question of gender identity in children have grown more contentious in recent years, especially after newly-installed President Joe Biden signed an executive order in January 2021, decreeing that schools must let male students compete in female sport competitions if they self-identify as girls.
A teacher in Kansas is suing her employers after she was suspended in a row over the 'preferred pronouns' of a female student, the Daily Caller reported on Friday.
Pamela Ricard, who teaches maths at the Fort Riley Middle School, is suing the Geary County School District over the three-day suspension and formal reprimand she was given in April 2021.
Ricard says she was disciplined for calling a female student by her legal surname, with the honorific "Ms" before it, according to the report.
She said she received an email from the school counsellor telling her to use the pronouns “he/him” to refer to the pupil in question, even though the schoolchild had never asked her personally to do so.
The school has since instructed staff to call students by whatever name and combination of pronouns the children fancy.
Ricard and other staff had recently been sent on a "diversity and equity" training course, where they were told to call pupils by their "preferred names" rather than those under which they were enrolled at their schools.
But the complaint asserts that neither the school nor the county board had an official policy on the matter at the time, and that she was disciplined under rules against “bullying by staff”.
A week after Ricard returned from her suspension, the school principle circulated guidelines on “Gender Identity and Gender Expression” and the “Use of Preferred Names and Pronouns” to staff.
“The new training materials and protocol mandated that teachers use students’ preferred names and that failure to do so would constitute a discriminatory act subject to employee discipline,” her complaint reads.
Then in October 2021, the school imposed new rules on how staff address children.
“Students will be called by their preferred name and pronouns," the policy reads. "This means if a student makes a request of a staff member to call them by a name other than their legal name as noted in the student information system — Skyward — the staff member(s) will respect the student’s wishes and refer to them with the indicated preferred name.”
Ricard, a Christian by faith, asked for a religious exception from “any school policy that requires a teacher or school employee to actively state or otherwise use a student’s or any other person’s preferred pronouns or other gendered language when different from the student’s or person’s biological sex.”
Her complaint argues that a policy requiring her to call a student "by a gendered, non-binary, or plural pronoun" goes against her protected beliefs.