Victory for San Diego-Area Teachers as Federal Court Orders School District to Reinstate Them

January 11, 2024
By
Tom Ciesielka

(January 11, 2024 – San Diego, California) California teachers who were forced to lie to parents about student gender dysphoria must be allowed to return to school, per federal court order issued January 10, 2024. Thomas More Society attorneys successfully upheld the rights of teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West. The teachers sued the Escondido Union School District and the California Department of Education after the administration established an unconstitutional policy. The new district rules required that they deliberately conceal from parents any student requests to be identified by pronouns inconsistent with their biological sex. Despite previous court instructions that Mrs. Mirabelli and Mrs. West be reinstated in their positions, the school district had continued to keep the teachers on administrative leave—prompting a request that the court hold the school district in contempt.

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 Mrs. Mirabelli and Mrs. West while the case is under consideration. The court also ruled that Mrs. Mirabelli and Mrs. West must be allowed to return to their classrooms. The district had refused to abide by the court’s ruling and allow the teachers to safely return to work.

“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.”

Read the Minute Order for proceedings held before Judge Roger T. Benitez of United States District Court for the Southern District of California on January 10, 2024, issued same day in Mirabelli, et al. v. Olson, et al. here.

Read the Verified Complaint filed April 27, 2023, by Thomas More Society attorneys in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, on behalf of middle school teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West, in Mirabelli, et al. v. Olson, et al. here.