A school district in San Diego is refusing to permit teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West to return to school over two months after a federal court ruled that the school district infringed on their constitutional rights. Consequently, attorneys from the Thomas More Society have urged the court to hold officials from the Escondido Union School District accountable.
The two teachers spoke out against a district policy that forces teachers to keep parents in the dark regarding students’ intentions to “change” genders and socially “transition” at school. According to the policies, teachers are required to use students’ “preferred pronouns” or chosen names during the school day. When speaking with parents, however, teachers are instructed to use the students’ biological pronouns and legal names. Both educators had been placed on paid administrative leave after they expressed concerns about the new district mandate.
On September 14, 2023, Judge Roger Benitez of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California issued a preliminary injunction in support of Mrs. Mirabelli and Mrs. West. Judge Benitez aptly labeled the school policy as a “trifecta of harm,” acknowledging the detrimental impact it has on children, parents, and teachers. The injunction directed the Escondido Union School District to “refrain from taking any adverse employment actions against Plaintiffs Mirabelli or West until further Order of this Court.”
“Quite simply,” said Thomas More Society attorney Paul Jonna, “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.”
Jonna also said that shortly after resolving the initial administrative complaint against Lori, EUSD claimed that a new complaint had been filed, necessitating an investigation. While the school district is entitled to conduct investigations, it cannot use baseless, consecutive complaints as a means to circumvent the Court’s order.
Additionally, Jonna said, “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 on the part of Escondido Union School District, but rather, an exhibition of lack of compliance with court orders,” he continued, “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.”
Now, the teachers are suing the California Department of Education, Escondido Union School District, and Rincon Middle School. The lawsuit claims the district violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses by “coopting school districts to push gender theory.”
The success of Mirabelli and West in this case is paramount. As Jonna points out, parents must be able to trust teachers, who play a key role in their children’s education. The school district, however, has created an environment of distrust by compelling teachers to deceive parents.