San Diego Schools Face Contempt of Court Accusations for Refusal to Reinstate Whistleblower Teachers

Left to Right: Lori Ann West, Paul Jonna, and Elizabeth Mirabelli
December 6, 2023
Tom Ciesielka

Thomas More Society Attorneys Demand School District Be Held Accountable in Parental Deception Lawsuit

(December 6, 2023 – San Diego County, California)
A San Diego area school district has refused to allow teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West to safely return to work, more than six months after they were placed on administrative leave, and more than two months after a federal court held that the school district was violating their constitutional rights. As a result, Thomas More Society attorneys have requested the court to hold officials with the Escondido Union School District and Rincon Middle School in contempt of court.

On September 14, 2023, Judge Roger Benitez of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, issued a preliminary injunction in favor of Mrs. Mirabelli and Mrs. West, dictating that the Escondido Union School District “restrain any governmental employee or entity from taking any adverse employment actions thereupon against Plaintiffs Mirabelli or West, until further Order of this Court.”

“Quite simply,” explained attorney Paul Jonna, Thomas More Society Special Counsel and Partner, LiMandri and Jonna LLP, “we expected that EUSD would quickly bring Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West back into the classroom. In issuing the injunction, the Court recognized that being precluded from doing your job is ‘irreparable harm’—harm that can never be undone. But the district has refused to bring them back into the classroom.”

Thomas More Society attorneys have repeatedly requested updates from the Escondido Union School District about how and when Mrs. Mirabelli and Mrs. West will be allowed to safely return to work. Both educators were placed on paid administrative leave following their raising of concerns about a new district mandate requiring them to hide students’ gender dysphoria from parents. Mrs. Mirabelli requested to be placed on leave following the severe harassment she received at work; Mrs. West was involuntarily placed on leave pending the school district’s investigation into an administrative complaint.

Shortly after the federal preliminary injunction was issued, a protest was held at Rincon Middle School against Mrs. Mirabelli and Mrs. West, and an administrative complaint—concerning alleged actions from five years prior—was lodged against Mrs. West.

Jonna explained: “Within a week of resolving the first administrative complaint against Lori, EUSD said that a new complaint had been filed, that it had to investigate. The school district can investigate all it wants, but it cannot use frivolous, serial complaints as an end-run around the Court’s order.” Additionally, Jonna related, “Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West have been vilified, harassed and targeted since they spoke up for the rights of parents, students, and teachers—like themselves. Rather than protecting their employees, EUSD has done nothing to ensure their safety and has turned a blind eye to the threats and discrimination targeting them.”

“With the lack of any good faith action of the part of Escondido Union School District, but rather, an exhibition of lack of compliance with court orders,” stated Jonna, “Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West have no recourse but to turn to the court issuing those orders to request that these school district officials be called to account for ignoring them.”

Mrs. Mirabelli and Mrs. West are suing administrators at the California Department of Education, Escondido Union School District, and Rincon Middle School. The lawsuit details violations of the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment over a policy through which education officials have allowed activists to “coopt school districts to push gender theory.” The current Escondido Union School District policies order staff to deceive parents about the gender identity and pronouns their minor children present at school—in direct conflict with the long-standing policy that teachers are to be honest with parents. Both Mrs. Mirabelli and Mrs. West are being illegally prevented from returning to their classrooms and both have been punitively targeted in retaliation for their whistleblower actions against the district.

Jonna pointed out the indefensible situation in which the district has placed its teachers.

“Educators seek to earn the trust of parents as they are highly significant players in a child’s development,” observed Jonna. “Here, the Escondido Union School District has created an unacceptable environment of distrust by forcing teachers to lie to parents about the students that have been entrusted to their care. Judge Benitez hit the nail on the head when he labeled the school policy as ‘a trifecta of harm’ for the damage it incurs for children, parents, and teachers.”

Read the Plaintiffs’ Ex Parte Application for an Order to Show Cause re: Civil Contempt of Court and/or Clarification of the Preliminary Injunction Order, filed by Thomas More Society attorneys on behalf of teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West, on December 6, 2023, in United States District Court for the Southern District of California in Mirabelli, et al. v. Olson, et al. here.

Read background and history of Mirabelli, et al. v. Olson, et al here.