Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys, representing a school counselor who was fired for speaking out against a school district’s gender identity policy, have filed a federal lawsuit against the South Madison Community School Corporation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.
The lawsuit, McCord v. South Madison Community School Corporation, is challenging the actions taken by the school district in terminating Kathy McCord, a dedicated educator with nearly 40 years of experience, known for her commitment to her students.
McCord’s employment was abruptly terminated after she spoke to a journalist regarding a policy implemented by the South Madison Community School Corporation without notifying parents or seeking their consent.
The policy in question, known as the “Gender Support Plan,” required school employees to facilitate students’ identification with a gender inconsistent with their biological sex. This involved using cross-gender names and pronouns—in some cases without parental notification or consent. Moreover, the policy prohibited employees from expressing any religious objection or personal beliefs regarding transgender students, characterizing such expression as potential discrimination.
McCord and other high school counselors and administrators attended a training session on gender and sexuality in September 2021, where they were informed about the new policy. She raised concerns about socially transitioning students without parental involvement and the requirement to deceive parents regarding their child’s name and pronoun usage.
McCord voiced her objections to her supervisors but was told she must comply with the policy or face potential consequences.
When a journalist discovered information about the “Gender Support Plan” policy and sought confirmation from McCord, she reluctantly agreed to an interview as a private citizen. During the interview, which took place in December 2022, McCord confirmed the accuracy of the information already gathered by the journalist, including the district’s failure to inform parents about the policy.
In the weeks after the first article was published, McCord was called in for a series of meetings with school officials, ultimately resulting in her termination.
In the lawsuit, ADF attorneys, on behalf of Kathy McCord, contend that “because Mrs. McCord’s strong interest in speaking on a matter of public concern outweighed any interests South Madison might assert in forcing her to participate in students’ social transition or hide it from parents, she engaged in constitutionally protected activity.” They further maintained that South Madison’s Gender Support Plan policy, which requires Mrs. McCord to socially transition students and to hide some students’ social transition from their parents, “substantially burdens her religious exercise because it forces her to choose between violating her beliefs and losing her job.”
ADF Senior Counsel Vincent Wagner says that 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. “Yet when Kathy spoke out about South Madison’s controversial new policy, the school district did just that. Kathy knows that kids do best when schools and parents work together. But South Madison’s harmful policy leaves parents in the dark. South Madison violated Kathy’s rights by forcing her to contradict her religious beliefs and participate in this policy. Schools can’t keep secrets from parents about their children’s mental health and well-being,” Wagner said.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.
As a faith-based legal organization, Alliance Defending Freedom is committed to upholding the religious freedom and First Amendment rights of churches and ministries, offering them legal assistance and guidance through its two ministry arms, ADF Church Alliance and ADF Ministry Alliance.
To follow Kathy McCord’s story or for other information concerning the work of Alliance Defending Freedom, visit ADF Media.