Teacher advocates for student’s pronoun rights and is honored with big award

Kansas teacher Pamela Ricard recently gained attention for her bold stance in support of a student’s preferred pronouns, sparking a discussion on religious beliefs, gender identity, and student rights. Ricard, an educator at Fort Riley Middle School, was informed by a school counselor that a student wished to be addressed by a different name and he/him pronouns, despite being biologically female. Ricard attempted to find middle ground by referring to the student as “Miss [legal/enrolled last name].”

However, the absence of a clear policy on the matter led to Ricard facing reprimand and a three-day suspension under generic school district policies related to employee bullying. Upon her return, a new policy was introduced mandating staff to use requested pronouns.

Despite this policy shift, Ricard pursued legal action, citing a conflict with her religious beliefs. In a federal court hearing in May, she was awarded a settlement of $95,000. This outcome enables her to communicate with parents in a manner consistent with her religious convictions and refrain from using pronouns that diverge from students’ biological sexes.

Furthermore, the court ruled against the district’s policy of withholding students’ preferred names and pronouns from their parents, ensuring parental access to accurate information about their children.

Regrettably, the school district has remained silent on the settlement, and updates on existing policies are lacking. This case underscores the importance of establishing clear policies and guidelines in schools to navigate sensitive issues.

The handling of this case by the school district prompts reflection on the complexities surrounding religious beliefs, gender identity, and the rights of students to express their authentic selves. It emphasizes the need for inclusive and supportive environments within educational institutions. Let’s continue the dialogue and strive for understanding and acceptance in our schools.