June 6, 2023

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

USD 259: honoring parents’ wishes on student pronouns is discriminatory

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The Wichita School district is declining to answer questions about a teacher training that says it is “discriminatory” for teachers to honor parents’ wishes regarding their child’s pronouns.

According to an email obtained by the Sentinel, a presentation entitled “LGBTQ+ Students: Pronouns and More,” allegedly produced by the school’s Director of Equity and Diversity Polite William, stated, “To allow a parents wishes to not use the students’ preferred pronouns and/or names is to allow yourself to be deputized to discriminate. This is not acceptable.”

The Sentinel reached out to president of the Wichita School Board Stan Reeser and Superintendent of Schools Alicia Thompson for comment.  We asked if it is the position of USD 259 that a parent’s wishes not be honored and if USD 259 condones such behavior by teachers or staff.

As of publication, they have not responded.

Pronouns notification opposed by KNEA

“Prefered Pronoun” policies have been a hot-button issue across the state for more than a year now. 

In late 2021 the Olathe Board of Education approved a “pronoun” policy for transgender students that requires parental permission for pronoun or name changes.

Shortly afterward, the school received letters from both the American Civil Liberties Union — which is alleging the district policy violates student’s Constitutional rights — and another, obtained by the Sentinel from the Olathe NEA 

The ACLU wrote that “… students enjoy privacy rights over their sexual orientation and gender identity, and that mandatory outing of this sensitive information to a student’s family runs afoul of the constitution and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (‘FERPA’).”

And in May of 2022, Geary County teacher Pamela Ricard won a temporary injunction against the Geary County Unified School District blocking them from disciplining Ricard if she were to intentionally disclose a student’s “preferred name or pronoun” to a parent.

Ricard is represented by the Kriegshauser-Ney Law Group and the Alliance Defending Freedom.

“We have consistently raised concerns with the school board regarding the district’s vague and unpredictable procedures for student name and gender updates,” Kriegshauser-Ney Partner Joshua Ney said at the time. “Once in court, the school district changed its policy yet again to accommodate Pam’s original request in order to avoid a preliminary injunction. Hopefully, the district can begin creating policies that focus on educating children without forcing teachers to lie to parents and violating a parent’s right to know what is going on with their child.”

Ricard filed suit against the district in March of this year after repeatedly failing to have a formal reprimand removed from her record after being disciplined for violating a “policy” that did not actually exist at the time.

Ricard eventually won $95,000 in a settlement from the district.

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