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Teachers fight back against censorship

Pro-transgender school policies head to court

The Grants Pass, Ore., public school district administrative building Facebook/Grants Pass School District 7

Teachers fight back against censorship

Two Oregon public school employees are suing to be reinstated after their district suspended them for expressing “controversial” opinions about a proposed policy addressing gender identity. A third teacher joined the federal lawsuit on Wednesday, challenging efforts by his district to restrict him from speaking to youth gatherings about sin.

In response to an Oregon bill that would require the state to create an education plan for students who identify as LGBT, North Middle School Assistant Principal Rachel Damiano and teacher Katie Medart started a grassroots organization, “I Resolve.” The group is promoting a resolution to allow staff and students to abide by their consciences and refrain from using preferred pronouns that don’t match students’ biological sex. School district officials in Grants Pass, Ore., placed Damiano and Medart on administrative leave after receiving complaints about a video they posted online about their proposals. They face possible termination.

In their June 7 complaint, Damiano and Medart argue the district’s attempt to prevent them from speaking outside the school context on a matter of public concern violates the First Amendment.

Ray Hacke, a Pacific Justice Institute attorney representing the teachers (and WORLD contributor), pointed to the importance of the case: “The Supreme Court has made clear that educators don’t check their freedom of speech at the schoolhouse gate when they accept employment with public school districts—they have as much right to speak out against district policies they consider harmful as any other citizen.”

Ryan Clark, a teacher at a different middle school in the same district, filed complaint on Wednesday accusing district officials of trying to restrict his off-hours preaching and speaking. Clark, a devout Christian, holds to a Biblical view of marriage, sexuality, and gender, and says district officials forbid him from preaching about sin and eternal judgment and handing out pamphlets concerning the LGBT community.

A ruling last week reinstated a Loudoun County, Va., elementary public school teacher suspended after criticizing gender policies at a school board meeting. Loudon County Public Schools announced it will appeal the ruling.

PJI President Brad Dacus said it’s important to preserve educators’ free speech rights: “School districts nationwide are already trying to run a lot of outstanding Christian teachers out of the teaching profession, and if that happens, our education system—which supposedly values diversity—will be poorer for it.”

Steve West

Steve is a reporter for WORLD. A graduate of World Journalism Institute, he worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor in Raleigh, N.C., where he resides with his wife.



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