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High School Students in School. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

CA Teacher Settles With Jurupa School District over Transgender Orthodoxy

Forcing her to use students’ preferred pronouns is the kind of proscribed speech that the First Amendment prohibits

By Evan Gahr, June 21, 2024 7:15 am

California teacher Jessica Tapia has settled for more than three hundred thousand dollars her lawsuit against the school district that fired her after she took issue with transgender orthodoxy at her school.

The settlement is a victory for individual freedom and a rebuke to a cultish philosophy that normally squelches dissent with impunity.

The Jurupa Unified School District in Riverside paid $360,000 to settle the case. Tapia, who was a physical education teacher at Jurupa Valley High School will receive $285,000 and her lawyers get $75,000 in fees.  As part of the settlement she agreed not to seek re-employment with the District.

Tapia claimed in her federal lawsuit that her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion were violated when the school district axed her for refusing to pledge allegiance to school policies on students’ pronouns, choosing their own locker room regardless of actual biological gender and keeping kids’ gender transitions secret from parents.

Tapia  asserted that following those policies would have violated her Christian beliefs.

But Tapia was not fired for failing to carry out any actual policies. She never actually encountered any transgender students. Instead, the school district demanded she agree to follow the policies because she was criticizing transgender orthodoxy on her personal instagram account without even identifying herself as a teacher.

Tapia was represented by the Murrieta, California-based non-profit law firm Advocates for Faith and Freedom, which says it focuses on “protecting constitutional and religious liberty in the courts.”

The lawsuit was filed in May 2023 in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. It paints a portrait of school officials as kind of fanatical, hunting down Tapia for her personal online musings and then refusing to grant her a religious accommodation or some kind of work around when she said she could not abide by their official policies.

The fracas started at the end of the school year in 2022 when Tapia posted videos on her Instagram account criticizing department stores for marketing LGBTQ clothing to young children.

At school the principal pulled her out of class and told Tapia  to meet with Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Daniel Brooks.  He told her there were complaints about her social media accounts and she was being placed on paid leave immediately and should leave the school immediately and not return.

Punish first and ask questions later!

According to the lawsuit “On July 29, 2022, Mr. Brooks, as authorized by Superintendent Trenton Hansen, sent Ms. Tapia numerous, unfounded allegations the District was in receipt of and asked her to respond to them as part of an internal investigation.”

“The allegations, in part, were premised on social media posts Ms. Tapia made on her personal Instagram account. The District claimed, as allegedly supported by students, that Ms. Tapia’s social media posts were racist, offensive, disrespectful, and mocking towards individuals based upon their sexual orientation. “

But “These allegations were a mischaracterization of who Ms. Tapia is. Ms. Tapia’s faith requires her to love all people, regardless of sexual orientation, race, or gender. In fact, Ms. Tapia has been adored by students and parents throughout her teaching career because she invests time into mentoring and caring for each student in her classroom.”

The lawsuit says Tapia was selectively targeted for her beliefs. “The District did not discipline or call in for questioning other teachers who were expressing their political and religious beliefs on their social media pages during the same time of the accusations levied against Ms. Tapia.

On September 30, 2022, Brooks sent Tapia an official Notice of Unprofessional Conduct.  To “cure” her “deficiencies” the District required Talia to pledge to follow the District’s Directives, as the lawsuit calls them, on transgender policy.

On December 19,2022, Tapia through her union representative told the District that she could not abide by the transgender directives because of her religious beliefs.

As the lawsuit explains, “As a Christian, Ms. Tapia believes that God defines human sexuality, and that men and women are created in the image of God. Her religion also holds that God created two sexes: male and female. As a result of her faith, Ms. Tapia also believes that all students, regardless of sexual orientation, race, or gender, should be treated with respect, kindness, and love. But her faith precludes her from endorsing policies that cause   such as facilitating a student’s gender transition or withholding information about it from the student’s parents. “

She requested some kind of religious accommodation, such as being allowed to call students by their given names or being transferred to another position in the District where she did not interact with students.

But “The District did not negotiate with Ms. Tapia in good faith to find an alternative accommodation.”

Instead they denied her an accommodation and fired her on January 30, 2023.

The lawsuit says the District’s actions violated “Ms. Tapia’s First Amendment rights to free exercise and free speech, as well as her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion.”

It also says forcing her to use students’ preferred pronouns is the kind of proscribed speech that the First Amendment prohibits.

But the Jurupa Unified  School District said in a statement it had done nothing wrong and that this “settlement is not a win for Ms. Tapia but is in compromise of a disputed claim.”

“The settlement certainly does not state or prove any illegal action or discrimination by the District,” a spokesperson said. “The District continues to deny any illegal action or discrimination against Ms. Tapia. As is clear from the settlement agreement, the District has not admitted any fault or wrongdoing against Ms. Tapia.”

But Tapia and her lawyers are taking a victory lap.

Julianne Fleischer, one of Tapia’s lawyers at the Advocates for Faith and Freedom law firm, told the California Globe that the settlement was a vindication of the First Amendment and that it should prove a cautionary note for other  school authorities inclined to trample on the rights of teachers.

“Because Jessica did not conform to her school district’s religious ideology regarding certain transgender policies, her school district no longer considered her qualified to serve as a public school teacher, “ she said via email.. “However, the First Amendment protects individuals like Jessica—no educator of faith is required to leave their religious beliefs at the “schoolhouse gate.”

Moreover, “ This settlement serves as a warning signal to other school districts that there is a financial price to pay when you burden an individual’s religious beliefs.”

Fleischer also scoffed at the  Jurupa Unified School District’s contention that the settlement was not a victory for Tapia.  “This is a win, not only for Jessica, but for all educators of faith,” she contended. “The District is paying Jessica over three times the salary she was owed as a result of the District’s illegal actions. Not only is there a financial victory, but Jessica’s story is also reaching hundreds of others, encouraging others to stand boldly in their convictions.”

Inspired by Tapia’s victory,  Advocates for Faith and Freedom has launched a new program called “Teachers Don’t Lie” that is intended to support and encourage  like-minded teachers to know their rights. “The purpose of TEACHERS DON’T LIE is to support teachers of faith who are feeling the weight of the darkness that has infiltrated the education system,” the program’s mission statement says.  We believe teachers of faith have the right to be in the public education system without sacrificing their convictions and the truth.”

Tapia will serve as the public face of the program.

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One thought on “CA Teacher Settles With Jurupa School District over Transgender Orthodoxy

  1. Public schools are no longer capable of educating students only indoctrinating them. They don’t want teachers but groomers who are willing to subvert other people’s children for their own nefarious and perverse ideology.

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