Attorneys of California Teachers Who Sued Over Gender Policy Want to Add Plaintiffs

Attorneys of California Teachers Who Sued Over Gender Policy Want to Add Plaintiffs

(L–R) Teacher Lori Ann West, attorney Paul Jonna, and teacher Elizabeth Mirabelli. A federal judge on Sept. 14 blocked a school district in Escondido, Calif., from punishing the two teachers for refusing to keep gender transitions of students secret from their parents. (Courtesy of Paul Jonna)

City News Service

City News Service

6/10/2024

Updated: 6/11/2024

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SAN DIEGO—Attorneys for two Escondido teachers who sued over school district policies governing what information can be shared with parents of students who change their preferred gender identity are seeking to have a group of teachers and parents, as well as the Lakeside Union School District as a whole, added as plaintiffs to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit initially filed on behalf of Rincon Middle School teachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West sought to block enforcement of Escondido Union School District (EUSD) policies requiring them to use pronouns or gender-specific names requested by students, while keeping that information private from others, including the students’ parents.
A San Diego federal judge sided with the teachers last fall and issued a preliminary injunction barring the district from enforcing the policies.
In a motion filed Friday, Ms. Mirabelli and Ms. West’s attorneys are seeking to add several new plaintiffs to the lawsuit, including two other EUSD teachers and two sets of parents, all of whom are seeking to remain anonymous due to “severe harassment and retaliation” levied towards Ms. Mirabelli and Ms. West, their attorneys say.
The proposed teacher and parent plaintiffs object to EUSD policies “on both religious and moral grounds,” similar to Ms. Mirabelli and Ms. West, who argued the policy violated their First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.
Lakeside Union School District officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but a statement from the attorneys says the district is seeking “declaratory relief so that it can pass policies that allow for parental notification, without adverse legal action by state officials.”
Other state school districts that require school staff to notify parents of transgender students have been sued by the California Attorney General’s Office and the California Department of Education, among others.
In a statement regarding one such lawsuit filed against the Chino Valley Unified School District, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said his office aimed “to protect the equal protection, nondiscrimination and privacy rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students. By enacting policies that forcibly out students against their own wishes, school districts violate these fundamental protections and risk breaching their obligation to serve these and all students equally.”
Mr. Bonta’s statement acknowledged the preliminary injunction in the Escondido case, but stressed that decision did not impact a different judge’s decision to block Chino Unified from implementing its parental notification policy.
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