Teacher Who Refuses to Lie to Parents About Kids' Gender Identities Wins Major Victory
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A California teacher suing to stop a policy purportedly requiring educators to lie to parents about their children’s gender identities is speaking out after scoring a legal victory.
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Lori Ann West, a physical education teacher in the Escondido Union School District, and fellow educator Elizabeth Mirabelli won a preliminary injunction Sept. 14 prohibiting the enforcement of the policy while the case plays out in court.
West, a veteran teacher who has taught in the district since 1994, told CBN Digital problems began in February 2022, when she and other teachers reportedly underwent training encouraging them to “exclude parents.”
“Both Elizabeth and I were really taken aback,” she said. “We thought, ‘How can this possibly be? No one’s a bigger champion of children than their parents, and we don’t want to take the role of parents.'”
West said she and Mirabelli believe it’s important to partner with parents, as moms and dads have the right and responsibility to raise their children “as they see fit.”
She soon found herself in the crosshairs for “misgendering” a student and began to worry she would soon face “discipline.” That’s when she decided to take action.
Watch West tell her story:
“And then hearing another teacher who had been formally disciplined, I was like, ‘Well, I’m on the path to losing my job if I don’t follow this policy and I don’t agree with this policy,'” West said. “So, it kind of puts you in a bad position. I don’t want to lose my job. I love my job. I love my students. I want to be there, and it was kind of ‘choose your faith or choose your job’ — and that’s a terrible position to be put in.”
She and Mirabelli decided to fight the policy, embarking on a journey that has attracted national attention. The injunction, the latest twist in the case, is significant, according to Paul Jonna, special counsel at the Thomas More Society, the law firm representing the educators.
“It’s actually a very big deal,” Jonna said. “Before you get a preliminary injunction, the court has to determine that you have a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the case; they don’t just give you an injunction. It’s a very difficult remedy to obtain.”
He said it often comes along with a presumption the complainants will eventually prevail.
“Courts are often signaling how they’re going to rule at the end of the case,” Jonna added, noting the legal challenge tackles teachers’ rights as well as parental rights. “The court says that this policy constitutes a trifecta of harms. … It harms students, it harms parents, and harms teachers.”
He continued, “In our case, we’re dealing with federal constitutional rights. I think big picture — these are wacky policies, they’re dangerous policies, they’re unconstitutional policies.”
Ultimately, he said the case could set a national framework through which courts across the U.S. can find a path forward to navigate similar complaints in other districts.
As for West, she said the case has been challenging and has had a negative impact on both her and Mirabelli. Despite receiving positive feedback from supporters, she said some fellow teachers have turned against them, making their “protests loud and clear.”
“It’s been a difficult process,” she said. “I have had trouble sleeping. I’ve had anxiety in the past, and this has really notched it up.”
Mirabelli previously shared her story with CBN Digital:
West hasn’t been working since May, but is hoping to return to Rincon Middle School now that she and Mirabelli have secured the preliminary injunction. Jonna said they’re working to get the teachers back into the school in a “prudent” way while the case moves ahead.
In the end, West said parents should “know what’s happening” and encouraged moms and dads to speak up and weigh in on the issue.
“Use your voice, parents,” she said. “Please use your voice, step up, go to school board meetings. We need to replace school board members. We need to change the whole culture of public schools.”
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