An Ohio middle school teacher has filed a lawsuit alleging that she was forced to resign for refusing to use her students’ “preferred pronouns.”
Former Jackson Memorial Middle School English teacher Vivian Geraghty said that using pronouns inconsistent with a person’s biological sex is against her religious values.
On Monday, attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) representing Geraghty filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Jackson Local School District. The lawsuit alleges that the policy requiring teachers to participate in the “social transition” of students is unconstitutional.
Geraghty’s troubles with the school began when two students asked her to use new names and pronouns to reflect their new “asserted gender identities.” Teachers were then sent instructions from the school counselor about how to “participate in the students’ social transition.”
“In response, Geraghty approached the principal with the hope of reaching a solution that would allow her to continue doing what she had always done: teach her class without personally affirming as true things that she believes are false and harmful,” the ADF explained.
The principal and the school district’s director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment allegedly told Geraghty that “she would be required to put her beliefs aside as a public servant” and that refusal to violate her faith would be considered insubordination. The lawsuit says that they claimed the teacher holding true to her beliefs would “not work in a district like Jackson.”
Additionally, the officials told her that if she would not go along with the student’s wishes, she “must resign immediately,” according to the ADF.
When Geraghty attempted to argue that the officials were violating her First Amendment rights, she claimed that the principal reiterated that as a public servant, she must “set [her] religious convictions aside,” or resign.
According to the lawsuit, the director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment then handed Geraghty a laptop and ordered her to draft her letter of resignation in the adjoining room for immediate submission.
“No school official can force a teacher to set her religious beliefs aside in order to keep her job. The school tried to force Vivian to recite as true the school’s viewpoint on issues that go to the foundation of morality and human identity, like what makes us male or female, by ordering her to personally participate in the social transition of her students. The First Amendment prohibits that abuse of power,” said ADF Legal Counsel Logan Spena in a statement. “Jackson Local School District officials nonetheless forced Vivian to resign because she resisted this unconstitutional command and explained that it was her Christian faith that made her unable to participate in her students’ social transition.”
ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, argued that forcing teachers to validate a “gender transition” may lead adolescents to pursue life-altering surgeries,
“Jackson Local School District officials require their teachers to immediately and personally validate a child’s gender transition even if doing so violates their religious beliefs, conscience, or sound judgment,” Langhofer said. “Increasing evidence suggests that this approach may lead adolescents to unnecessarily pursue dangerous medical interventions like puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, or life-altering surgeries. Vivian treated every student with equality and respect, and it was unlawful for school officials to terminate her employment simply because she wanted to avoid using her voice to validate ideas that violate her faith and jeopardize her students’ wellbeing.”