The teacher says that she was effectively forced to resign after citing her religious beliefs as the reason she could not address students by their preferred pronouns.
An Ohio teacher has filed a lawsuit alleging that she was forced to resign after informing her supervisor that she would not use transgender students’ preferred pronouns because doing so would violate her religious beliefs.
According to NBC News, the lawsuit names as defendants Jackson Memorial Middle School Principal Kacy Carter, the local Board of Education, and two district employees.
In her lawsuit, former teacher Vivian Geraghty states that she was employed by the Massillon-area school as an English language arts instructor until August 26, 2022, the same day that she was allegedly forced to resign.
Before resigning, Geraghty says that she “taught her class while remaining consistent with her religious practices and scientific understanding concerning human identity, gender, and sex.”
About one week before she left her position, two of her Geraghty’s students asked that she begin using names “associated with their new gender identities rather than their legal names.”
One of the two students, notes NBC News, asked that Geraghty also begin using new pronouns.
In her complaint, filed in a federal court, Geraghty recalls that the school district had recently adopted a policy requiring that teachers refer to students only by their preferred pronouns.
Since the students’ request went against her religious beliefs, Geraghty met with Principal Kacy Carter “in the hope of reaching a solution that would allow her to continue teaching without violating her religious beliefs and constitutional rights.”
When Geraghty reiterated that she would not use the students’ preferred pronouns, she was instructed to attend a separate meeting with Carter and Monica Meyers, a district employee.
During the second meeting, Carter and Meyers told the teacher that “she would be required to put her beliefs aside as a public servant,” and that her refusal to cooperate with district policy could constitute insubordination.
When Geraghty left the meeting and returned to her classroom, she was—minutes later—asked to return to the principal’s office, where she was told that she could other abide by district policy or resign from her position.
“I was asked to conform to students’ gender identities that opposed my religious beliefs. Unequivocally and unapologetically, I will not do so,” Geraghty wrote in her resignation letter. “While some may say this is forcing my beliefs on others, I say this is standing up for the mission that every teacher should fight for.”
“I understand that it is not my place to force my religious beliefs on others,” Geraghty added. “[…] However, there are lines that I will not cross, as they would violate my conscience and my God.”
Attorneys for the former teacher now say that Geraghty was effectively compelled to resign, and that district officials could have explored alternatives to termination. For example, Geraghty could have been moved to another classroom or permitted to address students by their last names.
Somewhat interestingly, the federal complaint alleges that Carter is exempted from the policy and allowed to avoid using students’ pronouns entirely.
The Alliance for Defending Freedom, which filed the lawsuit on Carter’s behalf, said that teachers should not be put in positions where they have to choose between their profession and their faith.
“No school official can force a teacher to set her religious beliefs aside in order to keep her job,” Alliance for Defending Freedom legal counsel Logan Spena said in a social media statement. “The First Amendment prohibits that abuse of power.”