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California Jurupa Unified School District (USD) agreed to pay a $360,000 settlement this week to end a lawsuit from a fired high school teacher who refused school directives to lie to parents about their child’s gender confusion or deny biological reality by using preferred pronouns. Tenured physical education teacher Jessica Tapia filed the lawsuit contending her January 2023 termination was solely based on her religious beliefs.

According to her termination letter, Jurupa USD summarized its understanding of her beliefs stating “you cannot be dishonest with parents,” and then told her it “could not accommodate your religious beliefs.”

Tapia filed the lawsuit alleging her firing violated her rights under the Free Exercise Clause, Free Speech Clause, Due Process Clause, First Amendment Retaliation, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Despite being involved in the school district as both a student and teacher for more than two decades, her lawsuit states the issue began after a group of students reviewed her personal social media account and reported to the district she was “an outspoken Christian conservative” and spoke about “Jesus.” Even though Tapia avoided affiliating the school district with her personal but public account, Jurupa USD still gave Tapia a “Notice of Unprofessional Conduct.” Tapia noted in her lawsuit that the notice consisted of “twelve meritless allegations,” including posting “offensive content,” such as Bible verses, on social media, “referencing her faith during conversations with students,” and “expressing controversial opinions” on gender confusion.

Over a series of meetings, Jurupa USD directed Tapia “to refrain from disclosing” gender confusion to unknowing parents and “to address students by their preferred name and preferred gender pronouns.” The district also mandated Tapia follow several other directives in order to keep her job, such as “refraining from expressing her religious beliefs with students or on her social media, and allow students to use the bathroom or locker room that matched their preferred sex.” Tapia then sought a religious accommodation since the directives were directly contrary to her biblical beliefs.

At the final meeting between Tapia and the school district, officials subjected her to what her attorney called a “religious test” where they questioned Tapia about her Christian faith to determine if it could accommodate her beliefs while honoring California law. The officials peppered her with hypothetical questions on how she would handle situations with gender-confused students, such as a gender-confused male requesting access to the girls’ locker room.

Tapia asked the officials directly “Are you asking me to lie to parents?” Tapia stated they said “Yes. It’s the law.” However, California law actually states parents “have an absolute right to access” school records pertaining to their children.

“I knew immediately…that there was a decision I had to make,” Tapia stated. “I essentially had to pick one. Am I going to obey the district [or] my own beliefs, convictions, and faith?” Tapia noted that the way Jurupa USD’s policies were being applied to her made her realize that in this district she “couldn’t be a Christian and a teacher.”

After telling the officials she could not comply with the directives, the district gave her a termination letter declaring that her religious beliefs were incompatible with her job.

“You believe that God created man and woman and that God creates every individual to be the person with the gender assigned in the womb and at birth,” Jurupa USD stated. “Based on your religious beliefs, you cannot be dishonest with parents…. The district cannot accommodate your religious beliefs that…prohibit you from maintaining a student’s gender identity and refraining from disclosing a student’s gender identity from his/her/their parent(s)/guardians.”

A federal district judge in California has already ruled in favor of two Christian teachers protecting them from a policy requiring them to lie to parents.  The judge stated a secrecy policy “harms the parents by depriving them of the long recognized Fourteenth Amendment right to care, guide, and make health care decisions for their children.” He noted the school district’s insistence that the child’s right to privacy supersedes the rights of parents is “mistaken” and the “Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.” The judge also concluded these types of policies make teachers “face an unlawful choice” between their faith and their job.

Jurupa USD’s settlement also does not allow Tapia any future employment with the school district. Tapia plans to help launch a campaign called “Teachers Don’t Lie” to help like-minded educators understand their constitutional rights so they can stand up to policies that directly conflict with religious beliefs.

According to Parents Defending Education, a grassroots organization promoting non-political education in the public classroom, at least 1,062 U.S. school districts have adopted secrecy policies to keep parents in the dark regarding any change in their child’s gender-related behavior.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Public schools cannot submit teachers to a religious test, fire teachers for their religious beliefs, nor can they compel teachers to lie to students or parents. The laws of our nation simply do not permit school districts to do these things.”

Author: Liberty Counsel


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