Two California teachers placed on administrative leave for refusing to withhold information about students’ gender “transitions” from their parents are back to work after filing a lawsuit challenging an unconstitutional policy.
Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West, teachers at Rincon Middle School in Escondido, California, went back to work on Tuesday, January 16th after a federal judge demanded that the school, the Escondido Union School District (EUSD), and the California Department of Education, abide by an earlier ruling to reinstate them.
Last May, Mirabelli and West filed a lawsuit suing EUSD and the state’s department of education after the administration established a policy that required teachers to not only address trans-identifying students by their preferred pronoun, but it required them to hide from parents their student’s gender confusion.
School counselors were assigned to help students transition with a “gender support plan” and would notify staff about which students were transitioning and instructed them on how to keep the information hidden from their parents, according to the California Family Council.
West and Mirabelli requested a religious accommodation against the policy but were only granted the accommodation for how they addressed students.
“It put me in a situation which takes us to the issue of faith,” Mirabelli said. “I have some core beliefs that are based on the Judeo-Christian tradition. I’m really clear about certain things that are right and wrong, and one of those things would be withholding material information about the welfare of a child from their parents. I was unwilling to do that.”
Mirabelli told CBN News she and other teachers initially felt intimidated by the policies.
“We were told in meetings that we had to follow the policy strictly,” she said. “We were told to say certain things and we were told to withhold information from parents, and one teacher that works with me at my school asked a lot of questions about the policy. She spoke to her students about it, also questioning whether it was the right thing to do.”
At first, she said no students made any requests to conceal their gender identities. That changed when kids who were transitioning began asking her to do just that. And that’s when Mirabelli knew she needed to do something.
“I realized quickly that I was in a really rough space because I keep in regular contact with parents,” she said. “I like to keep them up to date on any concerns that I have, whether they’re academic, or behavior, social, emotional. But I knew that teachers were getting in trouble for speaking out.”
She and West were put on administrative leave for questioning the policy.
“I believe in the teachings of the Bible,” West told Fox News. “(Mirabelli and I) follow the laws in the Bible, and that’s a wonderful thing. And it seems like, at my school, we have been put down for that. They want to stifle our voices.”
Mirabelli contacted the Thomas More Society and attorneys filed a federal complaint against the school district and the state board.
Judge Roger Benitez of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California issued a preliminary injunction last September in favor of Mirabelli and West.
He called the school’s policy a “trifecta of harm” and ordered the teachers be reinstated into their positions.
But the EUSD ignored the judge’s order and kept the teachers on administrative leave.
The teachers filed a federal civil contempt lawsuit against their school, school district, and state school board for refusing to give them their jobs back.
Benitez then ruled this month that the teachers must be allowed to resume their positions by January 16th.
Last week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta warned school districts that requiring staff to notify parents of their child’s transitions violates the state’s constitution, CBS News reports.
“This is an untenable situation to put teachers in,” explained Paul M. Jonna, Thomas More Society Special Counsel and Partner, LiMandri and Jonna LLP.
“Traditionally, educators have been viewed as highly significant players in a child’s development, partnering with parents—not supplanting them—in the incredibly important responsibility of raising children,” he continued. “The State of California and the Escondido Union School District have created an unconscionable scenario where it pits these two key influencers in a child’s life against one another by putting up an intentional curtain of dishonesty between them.”