A Trump-appointed judge in Kansas has issued a temporary injunction halting the enforcement LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination policies in a Kansas school. The ruling comes as the result of a lawsuit brought on by Fort Riley Middle School teacher Pamela Ricard, who cited religious freedom in refusing to correctly address transgender students.
Ricard had two transgender students in her class, one of whom filed a complaint that she was being “visibly transphobic” in the form of “misgendering/deadnaming,” according to The Topeka Capital-Journal. The school district suspended Ricard with pay for violating its policies on bullying, diversity, and inclusion.
Subsequently, Ricard filed a lawsuit against USD 475 Geary County Schools. She was represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group. Ricard’s complaint involved two specific policies: one requiring her to use correct names and pronouns and one preventing her from outing these students to their parents.
The Trump-appointed presiding judge Holly Teeter granted an injunction for the second complaint but not the first (because Ricard has avoided pronouns and used last names). “The Court relies on Plaintiff’s statements that she does not intend to communicate with a parent for the sole purpose of disclosing a student’s preferred name and pronouns,” Teeter said. However, the injunction blocks the school district from acting if Ricard does so.
“Plaintiff believes that addressing students one way at school and a different way when speaking to their parents is dishonest,” the decision goes on. “Being dishonest violates her sincere religious beliefs.”
Will Rapp, an organizer for the Kansas state GLSEN, was quick to point out that the welfare of children is what matters in this case. “Any effort to force teachers to out students to their guardians is a violation of young people’s privacy and can place vulnerable young people in harm’s way,” said Rapp. “When transgender and nonbinary youth feel unsafe at school, they experience negative impacts not only to their health, but to their academic achievement and likelihood of graduating or moving to higher education opportunities.
“Attempts to forcibly out students also jeopardize educators’ ability to foster trust and create the kind of safe school environment that allows young people to grow and learn without fear of harassment or discrimination.”
The injunction only applies to Ricard and will last until her contract ends (she will not be returning for work next year). At the same time, the injunction sets a precedent for other teachers to use the Kansas courts to exempt themselves from anti-discrimination policies on the grounds of religious freedom.