Our school district fired us for sharing gender identity policy ideas on personal time

We didn’t expect everyone to agree with our ideas. We simply wanted to start a conversation… to engage in dialogue on a topic of profound public interest and concern… to put forth possible solutions on how our community – and nation – could best help vulnerable children.

It would’ve been one thing to ignore our suggestions or even vehemently disagree with us; it’s quite another to say we’re not allowed to speak at all and to fire us for what we said.

But that’s exactly what happened to us, two public school educators in Grants Pass, Oregon.

We’ve been in the education field for many years. Rachel served as the assistant principal at North Middle School in Grants Pass, and Katie taught science there. We’re believers in public education; we love our work, having dedicated our careers to serving students and families and empowering teachers who frequently suffer from burnout.

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But we began to notice a troubling trend of parents being left out of the discussion when their children struggled with gender dysphoria – and teachers being asked to violate their conscience and lie to parents and students.

So we started a grassroots organization called “I Resolve” on our personal online platform where we could discuss local, state and national policy ideas and together seek a solution that would benefit all. Our expressed goal was to promote “reasonable, loving and tolerant solutions” for gender identity education policy that “respect everyone’s rights.”

Our faith is the most important thing to us – and we must abide by our core religious beliefs whether at home, church or teaching at school. We knew not everyone shared our core convictions, of course, and our main objective with starting this discussion was to bring a diverse community together to seek possible solutions to a divisive issue.

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Our proposed solutions respected the rights of students and parents and allowed teachers to continue teaching without violating their conscience.

Everything we suggested was measured against one baseline: Does this serve everyone?

Simply put, we were modeling what our school district taught us in how to resolve a challenge. Rachel informed our human resources department and our superintendent about what we were doing and had good discussions with them.

We had taken great care to speak out as private citizens, on our personal platform, and did not identify our school district or school. Indeed, our district’s policy encouraged educators to offer policy proposals. After all, teachers will often have the most informed ideas for how to serve students and their parents.

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But after a few people complained about the content of our speech, the administration made a 180-degree turn. We were asked to take down the video on our personal platform. We were called into the superintendent’s office. And Katie, was teaching a chemistry lesson when the other assistant principal walked into her classroom and told her to pack her belongings – just before class started, in front of her students.

School officials suspended and then terminated both of us for sharing our personal views off campus and off duty.

We knew that action violated our First Amendment rights, so we filed a lawsuit against school officials. A district court ruled against us, and, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom and Pacific Justice Institute, we asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to hear our case, which it did on June 3.

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We will continue fighting for the truth, advocating for policies that align with reality, and standing up to protect children. They deserve it. Parents need it. 

And our hardworking educators across the country deserve to work in schools that respect their faith and core beliefs – schools that don’t retaliate against them for holding viewpoints that might differ from their own.

Katie Medart lives in Grants Pass, Oregon.

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