Press Release

PRESS RELEASE: DFI Joins Fight to Protect First Amendment Rights of Public School Employees Who Were Terminated After Expressing Their Views on Gender Identity Education Policies

WASHINGTON—The Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies (DFI) joined the legal battle today over the First Amendment rights of two public school employees who were fired after expressing their views on gender identity education policies. 

The plaintiffs, Rachel Sager (formerly Damiano) and Katie Medart, who are employees of Grants Pass School District 7 in Oregon, started a grassroots movement called “I Resolve” to, according to their website, promote “reasonable, loving, and tolerant solutions for education policies that respect everyone’s rights” specifically regarding gender identity education policies.  The two educators produced a video to promote their policy solutions and were terminated shortly thereafter. At the time, the school district claimed the video was “in direct conflict” with the school district’s values.

Sager and Medart filed a lawsuit to fight for their First Amendment rights to free speech and religious liberty, but a magistrate judge dismissed their case.  In the dismissal the judge stated, “The District has a legitimate interest in protecting the safety and wellbeing of its students that outweigh Plaintiffs’ right to comment on matters of public concern” and that the video caused “disruption to the District.” The educators have appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

On Wednesday, attorneys for DFI filed an amicus brief with the 9th Circuit in Damiano v Grants Pass School District 7 supporting the plaintiffs and arguing the video they created “enjoys the highest level of constitutional protection.”

The brief states, “The Court allowed Defendants [Grants Pass School District] to elevate garden variety challenges (e.g., friction among co-workers) and the ordinary vicissitudes of life in an open, pluralistic democracy (e.g., being exposed to views you disagree with) into a ‘disturbance’ justifying infringement.  However, the most critical undisputed fact is that, as Defendants concede, school operations continued without interruption, the Video notwithstanding.”  The brief continues, “Even assuming some disturbance occurred, it was not proximately caused by Plaintiffs’ speech, but by the actions of others who were upset by that speech.  Backlash against ideas that some members of a community disagree with does not justify restricting the First Amendment rights of those expressing such ideas.”

To read the full brief, click here.

Sager and Medart are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom and Pacific Justice Institute.