Thomas More Society has stepped in to represent Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West, two teachers from a California middle school, in a lawsuit against the Escondido Union School District—or EUSD, a K-8 school district—and the California Department of Education. EUSD implemented a series of policies on the treatment of transgender and gender-diverse K-8 students which force teachers to use “pronouns or a gender-specific name requested by a student,” while “reverting 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.”
In this way, EUSD’s policies force elementary and middle school teachers to hide critical information about their students’ ‘social transition,’ or the use of a new name and pronouns to ‘validate’ a gender identity that is not consistent with a person’s sex. With this Parental Exclusion Policy in place, only underage children attending this K-8 school district are allowed to make such important and sometimes life-altering decisions—while parents are left in the dark, and teachers are required to unquestionably comply with and support the students’ requests.
Although the school district has permitted a religious accommodation for how Elizabeth and Lori may refer to students at school, the district outright refused to exempt the teachers from the Parental Exclusion Policy—compelling them to systematically deceive the parents of their students. “It is unfathomable that Escondido Union School District has a policy that forces teachers to withhold from parents some of the most fundamental and basic information about their children,” explained Paul Jonna, Thomas More Society Special Counsel and Partner, LiMandri and Jonna LLP.
On September 14, 2023, U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez granted the motion for preliminary injunction in the case, blocking EUSD from enforcing the Parental Exclusion Policy against Elizabeth and Lori. In this landmark, first-of-its-kind ruling, the Court stated that the Parental Exclusion Policy:
“...harms the child who needs parental guidance and possibly mental health intervention to determine if the incongruence is organic or whether it is the result of bullying, peer pressure, or a fleeting impulse. It harms the parents by depriving them of the long recognized Fourteenth Amendment right to care, guide, and make health care decisions for their children. And finally, it harms plaintiffs [teachers] who are compelled to violate the parent’s rights by forcing plaintiffs to conceal information they feel is critical for the welfare of their students—violating plaintiffs’ religious beliefs.”
The case now continues forward as Thomas More Society seeks a decision from the Court finding the school district policy to be unconstitutional.