Veteran Teacher Explains Why She's Suing Over Purported School Policy Mandating She Hide Kids' Gender Identities From Parents
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A veteran middle school teacher who has spent more than 20 years in the education system is suing officials over the claim she and other educators were implored to conceal students’ gender identities from parents.
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Elizabeth Mirabelli told CBN’s Faithwire she’s passionate about helping students learn and prepare for the future and “achieve their own dreams.”
INSIDE MIRABELLI’S CLAIMS
But the educator said she’s been forced to take a stand over what she said is improper policymaking at the hands of the Escondido Union School District.
“We were told in meetings that we had to follow the policy strictly,” Mirabelli 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.”
Mirabelli said the teacher was soon called into the office and “reprimanded in writing” by the principal and vice principal. This, in effect, left Mirabelli scared to speak out.
“I got pretty scared because I thought, ‘They’re gonna write you up, that goes in your file, and you’re supposedly violating the rules of your contract,’” she said.
At the time, Mirabelli said the policy, which had been in the works for quite some time, wasn’t anything she needed to immediately worry about.
“It’s been brewing in the background for some time,” Mirabelli said of the alleged regulations. “The policy was rolled out, but personally, I had never had a child in my classroom who asked me to withhold information from their parents.”
HOW THE TIDES SHIFTED
This school year, though, that dynamic shifted and students reportedly began making such requests.
“They were asking me, ‘I’d like to be called this … but please don’t tell my parents,’” she said. “I was approached by a number of students, and I realized quickly that I was in a really rough space because I keep in regular contact with parents.”
Mirabelli said she likes to speak with parents about academic, social, emotional, and behavioral issues, and was concerned about how the policy would impact her.
“I knew that teachers were getting in trouble for speaking out, so, I went online and I was thinking, ‘OK, maybe I need some help,’” she said. “So, I sent out an email form to the Thomas More Society.”
Watch her explain:
The conservative legal firm quickly responded and offered assistance. Mirabelli and fellow educator Lori Ann West filed a lawsuit against Rincon Middle School, the Escondido Union School District (EUSD), and the California State Board of Education in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
THE LEGAL QUESTIONS
Paul Jonna, Thomas More Society special counsel, told CBN’s Faithwire there are two different constitutional grounds on which he, Mirabelli, and West are challenging the district’s purported policy.
“Basically, there’s the parental rights aspect and there’s the First Amendment rights of teachers, and both of them are at issue in our case,” he said. “We’re representing teachers, but, again, they’re severely undermining the rights of parents, because they’re leaving them in the dark.”
Jonna said parents are treated like parties with “no legitimate need to know” important information about their kids.
“It’s a blatant violation of one of the most basic and fundamental rights that our nation has recognized from its inception, which is a fundamental right [of] parents to raise their own children without government interference,” he said.
As for teachers — the centerpiece of the legal complaint — Jonna said there are serious free speech and free exercise of religious claims for which to contend.
“And those are very strong claims that we believe will ultimately prevail,” he said. “We’re seeking a preliminary injunction and the judge will hear that motion on June 26th.”
TEACHING KIDS TRUTH
Legalities aside, Mirabelli spoke about the importance of educators teaching kids the value of truth and modeling it in the classroom.
“The heart of a teacher is you always want to provide the best example of conduct and making positive choices and being a responsible individual,” she said. “And I think that most people from any walk of life would agree that honesty is a key principle that we just do not violate.”
Rather than concealing issues or lying to parents, Mirabelli said kids facing inner turmoil should receive support and resources, with the family coming together rather than being fractured.
“I think that educators need to provide the support and resources to a family with a child going through a crisis, not cut the parents out,” she said. “But bring the parents in and help the child learn the value of honesty and the value of openness.”
She continued, “We don’t want to drive a wedge, teach the child to hide, and manipulate others.”
Jonna said this case could have “pretty significant ramifications” depending on where it ends up. He’s hoping to be victorious and to establish precedent on the issue, citing multiple examples of similar cases unfolding across the U.S.
“This is happening all over the country and … these policies are proliferating,” he said. “They’re very common in California, but in many, many other states and they’re very dangerous.”
Rather than a liberal versus conservative conundrum, he said, this is an issue that transcends ideology.
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