Teachers Sue Gavin Newsom Over Policy Forcing Them to Lie About Student’s Transgender Status to Parents

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Two teachers have added the governor and attorney general of California to a lawsuit. The suit claims that state policies have forced educators to lie to parents by hiding the transgender status of their children from them.

Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West, two teachers at Rincon Middle School in Escondido, sued the Escondido Union School District in April, alleging violations of their First Amendment rights. They allege that the school district’s “Parental Exclusion Policy” prevents teachers from disclosing “the fact that a student identifies as a new gender, or wants to be addressed by a new name or new pronouns during the school day.”

The teachers added Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta to the lawsuit last month.

“The governor is the boss,” Paul Jonna, the lawyer representing Mirabelli and West, told The Daily Signal in a statement Friday. Newsom “has ultimate responsibility for setting education policy for those under his supervision,” Jonna, special counsel at the Thomas More Society and partner at the firm LiMandri and Jonna LLP, added.

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“Rincon Middle School and the Escondido Union School District do not operate in a vacuum,” he noted. “The California Constitution provides that education is ultimately a matter of state responsibility.”

Pictured (Left to Right): Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West. (Photo: Thomas More Society.)

The lawsuit alleges a school district procedure titled the “Parental Exclusion Policy” prevents teachers from disclosing “the fact that a student identifies as a new gender, or wants to be addressed by a new name or new pronouns during the school day.”

The legal nonprofit Thomas More Society, which is representing Mirabelli and West, claims that “the district outright refused to exempt the teachers from the Parental Exclusion Policy—compelling them to systematically deceive the parents of their students.”

In August 2022, the teachers received an email with a list of students, including their preferred names and pronouns. The list included directions on whether teachers could disclose the names and pronouns to the students’ parents or guardians. Mirabelli reportedly received an email with a list of students like this: “[student name]: Preferred name is [redacted] (pronouns are he/him). Dad and stepmom are NOT aware, please use [redacted] and she/her when calling home.”

Mirabelli and West claim the policy violates their First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.

In September, a U.S. district court judge granted a preliminary injunction preventing the school district from enforcing the Parental Exclusion Policy on Mirabelli and West.

Judge Rodger T. Benitez called the policy a “trifecta of harm:”

It [the policy] harms the child who needs parental guidance and possibly mental health intervention to determine if the incongruence is organic or whether it is the result of bullying, peer pressure, or a fleeting impulse. It harms the parents by depriving them of the long recognized Fourteenth Amendment right to care, guide, and make health care decisions for their children. And finally, it harms plaintiffs who are compelled to violate the parent’s rights by forcing plaintiffs to conceal information they feel is critical for the welfare of their students—violating plaintiffs’ religious beliefs.

In January, the educators added Newsom and Bonta to the lawsuit, claiming that the school district is acting under their direction in attempting to enforce “state and federal anti-discrimination law.”

The California Department of Education has interpreted the law to require school districts to hide students’ transgender identity from certain parents on pain of state education funds.

Pictured (Left to Right): Jeffrey Trissell, Elizabeth Mirabelli, Lori Ann West, and Paul Jonna. (Photo: Thomas More Society.)

The amended legal complaint also says that “according to the attorney general, the State of California will sue any school district who fails to adopt these policies.”

Bonta “has been threatening school districts to adopt policies to conceal student gender incongruity from parents and legal guardians, pitting students, parents, and schools against each other,” Jonna, the teachers’ lawyer, said.

He said Benitez’s order deemed those policies unconstitutional, and the attorney general has shown no willingness to follow it.

“Bonta’s actions have demonstrated the state of California is not taking any actions to comply with Judge Benitez’s orders, so he will now be made to,” Jonna said.

Jonna says his clients are also desiring “a declaration that the parental exclusion policies violate parental rights because they cannot be forced to break the law.”

When asked to respond to Newsom’s arguments about such policies, Jonna said, “The policies are not needed to protect students—they harm students.”

“When teachers are forced to lie to the parents who have entrusted a child into their care – that is unconscionable,” he added.

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