Two educators in Grants Pass, Ore., lost their jobs amid outrage that they had the temerity to oppose transgender orthodoxy on bathrooms and pronouns. The teachers supported a compromise position, but students demanded their removal–and the school board obliged. The educators have already filed a lawsuit claiming the school board violated their First Amendment rights.
Rachel Damiano, the former assistant principal at North Middle School, and Katie Medart, a former science teacher at the same school, both supported the “I Resolve” movement, seeking a biology-based compromise solution to radical transgender demands. They opposed the Orwellian “Equality Act” and supported a resolution upholding the binary of biological sex, urging an anatomical designation for shared public-school restrooms and locker rooms (with a private accommodation for transgender students), and free speech protections for teachers and staff regarding transgender pronouns.
“We recognize that, excepting very rare scientifically-demonstrable medical conditions, there are two anatomical gender presentations, male and female,” the resolution states. “Shared public-school restrooms and locker rooms, previously designated by ‘gender’ (e.g. ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ designations) could be re-designated as ‘anatomically-male’ or ‘anatomically-female’ spaces to only be used by persons matching the anatomical designation of the spaces as consistent with the purpose for which the spaces are built.”
“For any person who is not comfortable using their anatomically-correct space, they may request access to a private restroom or locker room space, including designated staff spaces, to the extent that such spaces exist and are available,” the resolution allows.
The resolution also defends free speech while attempting to grant students who identify as transgender the right to request specific pronoun and name use.
“A student may, with parent permission, request to be called by a derivative of their legal name but it will not be mandated that students or staff be required to call the student by their preferred name,” the resolution states. “A student may, with parent permission, request to be referred to with preferred pronouns, but it will not be mandated that students or staff be required to use the preferred pronouns.”
Grants Pass School District 7 placed both Damiano and Medart on leave after they shared the resolution on social media in April. The district released a statement insisting that the social media posts “were not approved or endorsed” by the district.
“Grants Pass School District 7 is committed to providing welcoming and safe learning environments for all students, including our LGBTQ students. In Grants Pass schools, we ALL belong, regardless of race, religion, gender, sex, sexual orientation or ability,” the district declared.
Damiano and Medart did not oppose a “welcoming and safe learning environment” for “LGBTQ students.” In fact, their compromise arguably better reflects both the diversity of student and staff views and the privacy concerns many students likely have. In a statement, the educators declared themselves to be in support of “ALL students,” in favor of “protecting each individual’s freedom of speech,” and supportive of “parental rights and involvement in their child’s educational and personal journey.”
Many transgender activists have dismissed or demonized bathroom and changing room privacy concerns, and many have undermined parental rights, encouraging school to teach gender identity behind parents’ backs. Compromises like theirs represent an approach that takes many important variables into account, while activists often dismiss these and other concerns.
Yet Stephanie Eminowicz, an 8th grade student and self-declared member of the LGBTQ community who has adopted she/her pronouns (suggesting that “Stephanie” may be a male who identifies as female), organized a student protest, demanding the school district fire the educators.
“I always thought that North was a place that allowed all genders and gender identities and sexualities and races and ethical backgrounds and religions,” Eminowicz said. “When I heard about it, it was just so shocking to me and I couldn’t believe that this was like the world that I was living in.”
So this LGBT activist can’t believe that people might disagree with transgender orthodoxy and present nuanced compromise positions? That says more about Eminowicz than it does about Damiano and Medart. The Equality Act, which Eminowicz appears to support, explicitly guts religious freedom protections, weakening the potential for North to be “a place that allowed all… religions.”
In June, the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed a lawsuit, alleging that the school district violated Damiano and Medart’s free speech rights.
“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. The school district erred egregiously here in punishing Rachel and Katie for daring to take the stand they did,” Ray D. Hacke, PJI’s Oregon-based staff attorney, said in a statement on the lawsuit.
“Educators, like everybody else, have ideas and opinions they should be free to express,” PJI President Brad Dacus insisted. “This expression is protected by our First Amendment. Advocating for solutions they believe in should stimulate conversation, not subject dedicated educators to disciplinary action.”
Unfortunately, the school district decided to terminate both Damiano and Medart after a third-party investigator examined complaints that the educators had violated district policies by pretending to represent the school board while “politically campaigning.” Superintendent Kirk Kolb recommended termination for both employees, and the school board voted 4-3 to terminate each educator.
Recommended: 6 Reasons to Oppose the Orwellian ‘Equality Act’
Around 65 people showed up to protest, supporting Damiano and Medart. Staff turned some protesters away from the meetings because of fire marshal capacity. Protesters chanted in support of Damiano and Medart from the front of Grants Pass High School, where the school board met.
These firings represent a gross miscarriage of justice, and PJI is right to take up this case. Perhaps Damiano and Medart will find some resolution in the courts.