CV NEWS FEED // Two Christian teachers were recently allowed to return to work at a California middle school after winning a legal battle against the school district’s deceptive policy requiring teachers to lie to parents if their child identified as transgender.
Several years ago, Rincon Middle School in Escondido, California implemented a policy that effectively required teachers to lie to parents, if their child identified as transgender in school but did not want his or her parents to know. Teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West, both devout Christians, first learned of the school district’s policy during a training session for teachers.
Mirabelli and West filed a lawsuit with the Thomas More Society against the school district and the California State Board of Education in April of 2023. According to TMS, they sued “over policies requiring them to keep secrets from, and even lie to, parents about their minor-age students.”
The teachers were put on paid leave in May of 2023 as the situation gained national attention.
A federal judge ruled in September in agreement with the teachers that the policy was a violation of their First Amendment rights, and that they would be permitted to return to work. However, the school district violated the judge’s ruling and kept them on leave until just this month.
On January 10, Judge Roger T. Benitez of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California ordered the school district to allow the teachers to return to work.
FOX 5 San Diego reported, “After months of back and forth with attorneys for the Escondido Unified School District Jonna filed a motion to hold the district in contempt. The judge denied that motion, but instead ordered the district to allow them back to work.”
“Judges are typically reluctant to hold parties in contempt,” said Special Counsel for TMS Paul Jonna, according to FOX 5. “It’s a pretty serious penalty, but what he did… I view it as a warning to them if they violate his orders again, it’s going be much more serious.”
West told FOX 5 San Diego on January 10 in reaction to the ruling, “I’m shocked! I’m still processing. I cannot believe it.”
“Mrs. West is super excited to go back. She’s been on leave for eight months,” Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society Jeffer Trissell said, according to AFN. “Mrs. Mirabelli [is] still trying to figure out how to get back into the classroom and deal with the harassment.”
According to the Thomas More Society, the school district’s policy forces teachers to “unhesitatingly accepting a child’s assertion of a transgender or gender-diverse identity,” “immediately using any pronouns or a gender-specific name requested by a student during school,” and also “[revert] to biological pronouns and legal names when speaking with parents in order to actively hide information about a child’s gender identity from his or her parents.”
Trissell explained, according to American Family News (AFN), that “Mirabelli and West had never had transgender students in their classes, so the policy did not become a problem until the start of the next school year, when they had five or six gender-confused students per class.”
The teachers initially requested accommodations because of their religious beliefs, which the district granted. Those accommodations eventually were insufficient, and the situation escalated to a legal battle.
“We helped them try to negotiate an accommodation with the school district, and when that broke down, we had to file a federal lawsuit,” Trissell said, according to AFN.
After the judge’s order on January 10, West expressed to FOX 5 that she was excited “to get back to work,” and explained that she “harbors no ill will towards the school district.”
West told FOX 5, “Maybe they thought they were doing the right thing – they think they’re protecting kids and I think I am protecting kids. We have a different point of view and that’s OK.”