Grants Pass educators seek post-termination hearing
Two Grants Pass School District No. 7 educators who were terminated earlier this year after posting a video online stating how they think schools should deal with gender conformity issues among students are pressing ahead in their case to get their jobs back.
Former North Middle School assistant principal Rachel Damiano and science teacher Katie Medart filed an amended complaint in U.S. District Court in Medford this week.
Their lawyer, Ray Hacke, told the Mail Tribune in an email the amendments strip the complaint down to four causes of action from the original nine to simplify the issues before the court. What’s left are allegations that, in firing Damiano and Medart, the district violated the women’s right to free speech, did not provide equal protection to them under the law and discriminated against them.
“I can tell you that my clients are certainly praying for vindication, and the school board would be wise to reconsider its previous decision,” Hacke wrote to the newspaper.
He was referring to the board’s July 15 decision to uphold the superintendent’s recommendation to fire Damiano and Medart after an investigation in which each of them were allowed to participate. Hacke also said there could be a post-termination hearing, which would take place before the board in October.
The board’s July vote came in response to the two educators’ creation of the “I Resolve” movement, with the intention to create “sound” gender identity education policies. They sought to “have a constructive dialogue” on the topic by utilizing a website, social media and public events after state and federal legislation on gender identity came to the forefront earlier this year.
Damiano and Medart are of the Christian faith and believe, among other things, that “rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person,” according to the complaint.
They believe gender identity educational policies must respect the parents’ right to control their children’s education and protect families’ rights to freedom of speech and religion.
One point of contention is school control of its locker rooms and restrooms. Medart and Damiano propose these spaces be redesignated as “anatomically-male” or “anatomically-female” spaces to only be used by those corresponding persons. If anyone is not comfortable using their anatomically-correct space, Medart and Damiano believe access to a “private” restroom or locker room, including designated staff spaces, may be provided to the extent those spaces are available.
In addition, the women believe educators can, but should not be required to, use any name of a student other than their legal one and the same stands for the students’ preferred pronoun.
“We thought too much of what we were seeing was designed to appease social activists, rather than address the reasonable concerns of schoolchildren and their parents,” Medart and Damiano stated in an open letter on the “I Resolve” website. “We have a front-row seat to those concerns every day.”
The educators contend they conducted their “I Resolve” efforts as private citizens and did not use district resources to accomplish it. Further, they say they met with district officials about the website prior to its launch, and they alleged officials were not critical of their efforts and did not warn them they might be violating district policy.
“It’s one thing to ignore our suggestions [and] quite another to say we’re not allowed to speak at all and to terminate us for our speech,” Medart and Damiano wrote in their open letter.
They added, “if they’re [district leaders] going to punish us for simply speaking out, then it’s time to do more than act; it’s time to take action.”
Kristin Hosfelt, a spokeswoman for Grants Pass School District No. 7, said the district does not comment on pending legal matters.