Fort Riley Middle School teacher suspended for refusing to use a student’s preferred name and pronouns; school district mandates “annual diversity awareness training” for teachers
- Sex and Gender
A math teacher at Fort Riley Middle School was reportedly suspended for three days in April 2021 for refusing to use a student’s preferred name and pronouns. The teacher has taught at the school since 2005, but the Geary County School District still suspended her after she called a female student “miss.” The student reportedly preferred to use “he/him” pronouns. The Associated Press reported that a school counselor told the teacher that the student preferred to use a different name and pronouns, but the student never personally told the teacher beforehand.
The middle school principal reportedly sent staff “new training and protocol materials requiring them to use students’ preferred names and pronouns” a week after the teacher’s suspension, according to the Associated Press. In September 2021, the teacher appealed her discipline to the Board of Education and asked them to consider accommodating her Christian religious beliefs. However, the Board of Education denied her request. At the same meeting, the Board approved a new policy that required teachers to use the preferred names and pronouns of students.
The Associated Press reported that the teacher “is suing the school board, as well as Superintendent Reginald Eggleston and Fort Riley Middle School principal Kathleen Brennan.” The news outlet continued to report that the “lawsuit alleges the district’s actions violated [the teacher’s] constitutional rights to free speech, free exercise of her religion, due process and equal protection under the law.” The teacher “is asking to have her disciplinary record cleared and is seeking ‘nominal damages.'”
In a school district policy labeled as “GAACB” that was implemented in October 2021, the Board of Education states that teachers “are expected to exhibit conduct that reflects dignity, respect and inclusion at all times during the instructional day and at all other district-sponsored programs and events.” The Board then states in the policy that “all employees are required to attend and complete annual diversity awareness training to enhance their knowledge to fulfill this responsibility.” The policy also states: “Employees will be called by their preferred name and pronouns.”
In another policy labeled as “JGECB” that was also implemented in October 2021, the Board of Education states that the school district will “embrace student differences in age, color, national origin, disability, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation, along with any other individual characteristics.” The policy then states: “Students will be called by their preferred name and pronouns.” One of the school district’s commitments in this policy to achieve “diversity, equity, and inclusion” is to “address cultural and social biases, practices and barriers that impede equal access to educational opportunities, negatively impact student success, and perpetuate the achievement gap.”