Oregon educators are fighting for their jobs after starting a campaign to keep biological males and females in their own school restrooms and locker rooms and make it optional for school employees to use their students’ preferred gender pronouns.
Assistant principal Rachel Damiano and science teacher Katie Medart of North Middle School face a pre-termination hearing before the school board Thursday. They are seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction as they continue suing the Grants Pass School District for violating their speech rights under the U.S. and Oregon constitutions.
A court hearing on their motion is scheduled for Friday afternoon, Ray Hacke, the educators’ lawyer at the Pacific Justice Institute, told Just the News. “This means that if Rachel and Katie do have their employment terminated, that could conceivably get reversed one day later.”
The district argues the federal court can’t reinstate Damiano and Medart to their positions, from which they’ve been on paid leave for three months for “inappropriate behavior,” unless the school board accepts the superintendent’s recommendation to fire them.
The educators argue they “spoke as private citizens about gender identity education policy, a matter of public concern,” using their own resources over spring break.
The two claim they are challenging a district speech policy that not only regulates their speech on “any political or controversial civil issue” while acting as educators, but also requires them to “issue a disclaimer” when sharing their views off campus.
They have stopped sharing social media posts about the “I Resolve” campaign because of the disclaimer requirement, an unconstitutional chilling effect, the motion for a TRO said. The superintendent suspended them after they refused to take down the website, which also prevented Medart from finishing a district-paid “certification training course.”
The Women’s Liberation Front is organizing the educators’ supporters to participate in their public hearing via Zoom Thursday and circulating a petition in favor of them. The Josephine County Republican Party is urging supporters to file complaints with the district for exempting Black Lives Matter advocacy, including posters in classrooms, from the speech policy at the same time it prohibited the campaign by Damiano and Medart as controversial. (The suit claims Blue Lives Matters posters are also banned.)
The district told a local news station in April that it was investigating two staff members in response to complaints that they “made postings on social media” and “included references to their employment with the District.” It implied the investigation was prompted to maintain “welcoming and safe learning environments” for LGBTQ students.
Except for its opposition to the educators’ motion, the district has not filed a full response in court. Citing its policy against commenting on litigation, a spokesperson declined to tell Just the News if it claims the right to regulate teachers’ conversations during “down time” at school, as the plaintiffs allege. She provided a copy of the district’s policy on staff participation in political activities but didn’t explain how the plaintiffs violated it.
The resolution written by Damiano and Medart recommends redesignating K-12 boys and girls facilities as “anatomically-male” and “anatomically-female,” which is “consistent with historically and scientifically demonstrable anatomically-correct utilization of those spaces.” Students who do not want to use their designated space would be offered private facilities.
Following “parent permission,” students could request that school employees use “a derivative of their legal name” and pronouns that do not match their “apparent anatomical presentation,” but schools could not force employees to comply. A footnote on their website says they support state funding of “individual gender neutral bathrooms.”