(September 14, 2023 – San Diego, California) A California federal court has granted teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West reprieve from a dangerous school district policy forcing them to lie to parents about their children’s gender identity. Thomas More Society attorneys successfully convinced the court to issue the preliminary injunction prohibiting the enforcement of Escondido Union School District’s offensive policy while the case is under court consideration. The court order, issued on September 14, also denies motions to dismiss the case filed by both the Escondido Union School District and the California Department of Education.
Mirabelli and West are suing administrators at the Escondido Union School District, California Department of Education, and Rincon Middle School. The lawsuit details violations of the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment over a policy that has allowed activists to “coopt school districts to push gender theory.” The current Escondido Union School District policies compel staff to deceive parents about whether their own children have requested to socially transition to a new gender at school—in direct conflict with the long-standing policy that teachers are to be honest with parents.
“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. 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.”
In the request for a preliminary injunction, Mirabelli and West claimed that their First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion were being violated. The court agreed, and stated, “Mirabelli and West face an unlawful choice along the lines of: ‘lose your faith and keep your job, or keep your faith and lose your job.’”
The order was quick to point out the problems with the policy, labelling it “a trifecta of harm,” and detailing the abuses that it heaps on children, parents, and teachers. 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.”
Read the Order: (1) Granting Motion for Preliminary Injunction; (2) Denying Motions to Dismiss, issued on September 14, 2023, by Judge Roger T. Benitez of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, in Thomas More Society’s lawsuit on behalf of educators Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West, Mirabelli, et al. v. Olson, et al. here.