PENDLETON, Ind. — A former Central Indiana high school counselor has filed a federal lawsuit against her old school claiming her constitutional rights were violated when she was fired and accused of lying about student gender plans.
Kathy McCord, a former counselor at Pendleton Heights High School in Madison County, had her teaching contract terminated in March after a unanimous vote from the South Madison Community School Corporation board.
Now, McCord has filed a federal lawsuit against the school corporation demanding that a jury trial be held regarding the events of her dismissal and an ensuing controversy that centered around the school district’s policies regarding student gender identity.
McCord claims she was disciplined by the school district after disagreeing with and speaking publicly about an apparent plan to withhold information from parents about a student’s preferred pronouns.
This sparked controversy within the community, with the school board holding several meetings open to the public regarding McCord. Meetings in both February and early March had several community members attend in both support of and against McCord.
At a meeting on March 9, school board members voted 7-0 to fire her.
Board members said McCord provided documents to a publication, The Daily Signal, regarding the school’s alleged student gender plans. The board went on to claim that the documents had been edited and that McCord provided a Daily Signal reporter with misleading statements.
The school board then provided, for the first time, 100 printed copies of what they said is the district’s official plan regarding student gender support. To view that copy, click here.
The following day, the school board released what they called a factual basis for their decision, which can be viewed here.
At the time of the board’s decision, Kathy McCord and her family did not release any comment. The reporter who wrote the article in question, Tony Kinnett, vehemently denied the allegations.
On Thursday, May 18, Kathy McCord filed a lawsuit against the South Madison Community School Corporation in the US District Court for Indiana’s Southern District.
“South Madison Community School Corporation fired school counselor Kathy McCord, despite her decades of stellar service to Pendleton’s students, because she spoke to a reporter about South Madison’s controversial policy regarding students’ gender identity,” the lawsuit reads.
Documents filed Thursday argue that McCord, like all public employees, did not surrender her First Amendment rights when she became employed by the school district. Furthermore, the suit claims that by firing her, the school board violated McCord’s constitutional rights.
The lawsuit goes on to say that McCord objected to the school’s student gender policies for “good reason” and posed questions such as “Can a person change sexes?” and “What does it mean to be a boy or a girl?” that were not answered by the school board.
Attorneys for McCord are arguing that, as a private citizen, she attempted to spark a debate about a community controversy. They say South Madison “tried to short circuit” that discussion.
In addition to the First Amendment, the lawsuit claims that McCord’s 14th Amendment rights were violated and her firing “raises claims under Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act”.
Finally, the suit asks the Court to issue an injunction requiring McCord to be reinstated and to require South Madison to repay any money she may have lost as a result of her termination.
On Thursday, the Alliance Defending Freedom group confirmed that ADF attorneys will be representing McCord in the lawsuit.
“No educator should be fired for expressing her beliefs, especially when she speaks in her personal capacity, on her own time, and out of concern for her students,” said ADF Senior Counsel Vincent Wagner.
To read the full lawsuit filing, click here.