On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled in favor of the reinstatement of two whistleblower teachers in the Escondido Union School District (EUSD) in California who were placed on leave for refusing to lie to parents and hide students’ gender transitions.
Last year, middle school teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West filed a lawsuit against EUSD and the California State Board of Education over a policy requiring educators to hide a child’s preferred pronouns and gender identity if a student asks to keep parents in the dark.
The Verified Complaint was filed on April 27, 2023, by attorneys at the Thomas More Society attorneys on behalf of Mirabelli and West, in Mirabelli, et al. v. Olson, et al.
Mirabelli and West requested religious exemptions to the district’s policy. Although the ability to refrain from using preferred pronouns was granted, they were still not allowed to inform parents.
The educators were suspended and placed on administrative leave, and the district refused to reinstate the whistleblowers.
In September 2023, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California ruled that the school district’s policy compelling staff to deceive parents about their children’s gender identity preferences could not be enforced against Mirabelli and West while the case was under consideration.
Further, the court also ruled that Mirabelli and West must be allowed to return to their classrooms.
The district, however, continued to refuse to abide by the court’s ruling and allow the teachers to return to work safely.
The Thomas More Society shared news of the victory.
“When the case was first filed, there was retaliation and harassment directed at teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West,” explained Paul Jonna, Thomas More Society Special Counsel and partner at LiMandri and Jonna LLP. “They had learned about this policy that was being enforced that would require them to hide material information about their students from parents, and to lie to the parents. These teachers just wanted to continue their jobs without having to comply with an illegal and unconstitutional policy.”
“Shortly after the complaint was filed, the Escondido Union School District placed Lori West on involuntary administrative leave due to new complaints against her. That investigation was supposed to conclude in 30 days, but it ended up taking five months” added Jonna. “Shortly after the school district told us that the investigation was cleared, the school district claimed that a new complaint had been made, and that she was going to be placed on leave again. The nature and timing of the new complaint was highly suspect. Yet, even in the face of a federal court order, the district decided to take additional adverse employment action against our clients—in direct violation of the terms of the order—leaving Lori on administrative leave for another three months. Fortunately, the court addressed this issue on January 10 by ordering the district to immediately reinstate our clients.”
You can read the Minute Order for proceedings in Mirabelli, et al. v. Olson, et al. here.