An Ohio teacher has sued the district where she taught middle school English, accusing the administration of religious discrimination after she said she would refuse to call students by their preferred names and pronouns.
Vivian Geraghty, an English teacher at Jackson Memorial Middle School since August 2020, says that she was forced to resign after telling school administrators that she would not “participate in the social transition” of students whose gender identities did not align with what they were assigned at birth.
Geraghty says she is a “professing Christian who strives to live out her faith daily,” and she cannot recognize anything other than “two distinct, complementary sexes.” Doing so, she says, “would violate biblical commands against dishonesty and lying.”
The Jackson Local School District, meanwhile, has a policy of requiring teachers to use names and pronouns consistent with a student’s gender identity, according to the complaint. In August 2022, two students asked that Geraghty do just that.
When Geraghty told school administrators that that “her views about sex and gender identity were informed by her religious belief,” she says he was ultimately told that “she would be required to put her beliefs aside as a public servant.”
Geraghty said that she couldn’t “put her beliefs aside, and she did not believe she could be compelled to do so as a condition of public service.” Hours later, she says in the complaint, she was told that her refusal to follow district policy “amounted to insubordination” and that “she must resign effective immediately.”
“Unwilling to violate her convictions and believing she had no other choice, Ms. Geraghty tendered her resignation,” the complaint says, adding that she was subsequently “escorted out of the building.”
According to Geraghty, the school did not consider an “accommodation” for her, such as allowing her to avoid using pronouns completely and refer to a student by their last name only. Nor did the school consider the possibility of transferring either Geraghty or the students seeking to be called by their preferred names and pronouns to a different class, she says.
“Compelling Ms. Geraghty to participate in social transition forces her to express as true the idea that a female student is actually male by using male pronouns, or vice versa,” the complaint says. “This compels her to express a message on that matter of public concern and debate, and to personally apply that message as if it was true, when she believes that it is not true.”
Geraghty says that the school’s policy and subsequent termination violated her civil rights protections against compelled speech. She also alleges violations of her right to free exercise of religion, and says that her termination was free speech retaliation. She is seeking an injunction requiring the school district to reinstate her in her position and barring it from enforcing its policy requiring teachers to use a student’s preferred name and pronouns. She also wants a declaratory judgment that the policy is unconstitutional.
Her case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Pamela Ann Barker, a Donald Trump appointee.
“No school official can force a teacher to set her religious beliefs aside in order to keep her job,” attorney Logan Spena, of the conservative advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “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.”
“The Jackson Local School District is aware of this lawsuit,” a representative for the district told Law&Crime in an email. “This district always will strive to provide a safe, comfortable environment for all of our nearly 6,000 students in which to learn. We have engaged legal counsel and we will have no further comment on pending litigation.”
Read the complaint here.
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