Village News Staff
In a significant development in Escondido, California, Judge Roger Benitez of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California ordered the Escondido Union School District (EUSD) to reinstate two Christian teachers, Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West. The teachers had been placed on administrative leave for opposing a district policy that involved withholding information about students' gender transitions from parents.
Earlier this month, the federal court's decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by the teachers, who were represented by the Thomas More Society. They had been denied religious exemptions from the district's policy, which instructed them not to disclose information about students' gender dysphoria to parents. This policy was part of a broader approach involving school counselors assisting students with social transitions and employing a "gender support plan."
The controversy was fueled by revelations that school counselors were notifying staff about students beginning social transitions, advising them to keep this information from parents. The lawsuit also disclosed that a district social worker had advised staff that parents “do not have a legitimate need for the information” regarding their child’s gender identity.
Judge Benitez's ruling mandated that Mirabelli and West be allowed to resume their positions by Jan. 16. The judge described the school's policy as a “trifecta of harm,” acknowledging its negative impact on children, parents, and teachers. Despite a preliminary injunction issued on Sept. 14, 2023, supporting Mirabelli and West, the EUSD had maintained their administrative leave status.
This case occurs amidst escalating debates in California over undisclosed gender transitions in schools. Notably, Attorney General Rob Bonta has been involved in similar cases. He submitted a legal brief supporting a Northern California school district's policy of facilitating an 11-year-old student’s social transition without parental knowledge. Additionally, Bonta filed a lawsuit against Chino Valley Unified School district which barred staff from concealing students’ gender dysphoria from parents. This lawsuit led to a temporary suspension of the policy.
Amidst these legal battles, grassroots activists in California are gathering signatures for a ballot measure aimed at prohibiting schools from hiding students’ gender dysphoria from their parents and addressing issues related to transgender students in sports and school facilities.
IIn a press release last week, California Family Council stated, “Mirabelli and West’s case is a victory for free speech, religious liberty, and parental rights. Parents must be able to trust teachers, who play a key role in their children’s education. With so many schools in California implementing secrecy policies, more teachers like Mirabelli and West are needed to restore trust with parents and a safe environment for students. Hopefully, ongoing cases and proactive efforts to safeguard children will further rebuild parental trust and counteract any negative influences from activist teachers.”