A California teacher has filed a lawsuit against the school district she says fired her for refusing to conceal gender information from parents.
The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court last week, alleges the Jurupa Unified School District in southern California wrongfully terminated the teacher, violating her constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religion, Fox News reports.
When her district adopted a new, woke gender identity policy, PE teacher Jessica Tapia suspected it would eventually force her to decide between her job and her Christian beliefs.
“I essentially had to pick one,” she told Fox News. “Am I going to obey the district in the directive that are not lining up with… my own beliefs, convictions and faith? Or am I going to stay true…, choose my faith, choose to be obedient to… the way the Lord has called me to live?”
The policy allegedly requires teachers to lie to parents and help conceal their children’s gender identity. It also allows students to use restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity instead of their biological sex. Both aspects of the policy were issues for Tapia, who believes God created “man and woman,” a biological reality that can’t be changed.
“According to my school district, students have privacy,” she said. “And so, if a student shares information regarding a pronoun preference or thinking they may be the opposite gender of what they biologically are, if they share that information with a teacher, we are supposed to keep that info from parents in case the parent doesn’t know.”
The thought of hiding information from or even lying to parents about their children trouble Tapia, as did the possibility of little girls being exposed to male genitals in the locker room was even more troubling.
“I don’t believe [kids] should have this ‘privacy’ to where their parents are being left in the dark about some very pertinent information about their well-being,” she said. “I don’t believe in my faith that that’s how God is calling us to love, by affirming those lies and confusion. I believe firmly that God created man and woman, and you are who he made you to be. And when someone has confusion about that, I believe that’s lies and confusion from the devil.”
Initially, Tapia claims the district told her she had engaged in unprofessional conduct related to the policy and subsequently put her on “A Plan of Assistance and Directives.” The directives included a willingness to lie to parents, ceasing any expression of her religious beliefs with students and refraining from posting her views online, the filing says.
When she refused to comply and requested religious accommodations, the district refused and fired her, citing her religious beliefs, as reported by The Lion.
“Based on your religious beliefs, you cannot be dishonest with parents…,” reads a letter from the district, reviewed by Fox News. “If asked about a student’s gender identity by a parent, you cannot refer the parent to a counselor, defer the inquiry and suggest they speak with a student…, or otherwise deflect the parent’s inquiry.”
“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.”
“Consequentially, the District will release you from your employment effective at the end of the day on January 31, 2023,” the letter concluded.
Advocates for Faith & Freedom, the non-profit group which filed the suit on Tapia’s behalf, says they took up the case to stand up for religious freedom and parental rights. The group is arguing people of faith should not have to silence their beliefs in order to maintain a job and that parents should have final say over their children’s education.
“People of faith should be allowed to maintain their personal beliefs without fear of losing their job,” the group said in a statement. “Jessica Tapia was not dismissed for any wrongdoing, rather, she was dismissed for her Christian beliefs. This is a clear violation of our Constitutional rights.”
The district denied firing Tapia over her religious beliefs in a statement released to the press. Instead, it claims to be protecting a student’s right to privacy, citing local, state and federal anti-discrimination.
“The district denies the allegations raised by Ms. Tapia,” the statement reads. “The district takes seriously its obligation to accommodate its employee’s religious beliefs. Simultaneously, the district is obligated to comply with all local, state, and federal laws, including anti-discrimination laws and laws that protect students’ rights to privacy, which are in place to protect the nearly 2,500 employees and 18,000 students we serve. We cannot comment further on personnel matters.”
Tapia chose to stand on her principles, even though it ultimately cost her job. Now, she’s warning those with similar beliefs may soon be forced to make the same choice.
“What has happened to me can happen to anybody,” she said in a statement. “My story is not just mine. It is the story of every teacher of morals and faith. It is the story of every parent whose first priority is protecting their children.”