Event Banner

‘Overstepping our role’: Teachers file suit over school policy requiring them to lie to parents about students’ gender transition


“How do educators know better than their own parents and families? Why are we taking over the welfare of these kids and decisions as personal as their given name? I just felt that was really overstepping as a teacher, as an educator. That’s overstepping our role in their lives. And then we’re not allowed to tell their parents? I thought it just doesn’t seem right.”


Two California teachers have filed a lawsuit against their school district over a policy that requires employees to lie to parents about their child’s gender transition, a transition that the school encourages and aids.

Attorneys with Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm, filed the suit on Thursday on behalf of Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West, teachers with the K-8 Escondido Union School District near San Diego. The plaintiffs allege that the district, as well as the California State Board of Education and Rincon Middle School, violated their Free Speech and Free Exercise rights under the First Amendment.

They claim that a policy requires teachers to not only unhesitatingly accept a child’s claim of transgender status and begin aiding that child’s gender transition, but it also requires them to deceive parents and caregivers about the child’s gender. A presentation given at a staff meeting on February 3, 2022 provides details on the “rights of gender diverse students.” A transcript states:

“The school or District shall accept the student’s assertion of their gender identity and begin to treat the student immediately, consistently with that gender identity. The student’s assertion is enough. There is no need for a formal declaration. There’s no requirement for parent or caretaker agreement or even for knowledge for us to begin treating that student consistent with their gender identity.”

Students who claim to be transgender or gender diverse are allowed to use whichever bathroom and locker room they choose and are allowed to participate in any sex-segregated program according to their gender identity. Students are also offered the opportunity to enroll in a gender support plan where a “support team member” asks the student questions in order to help in the student’s social transition.

School staff are required to use a student’s preferred name and pronouns. It is also considered discrimination or harassment if the staff member talks about “a student’s transgender status or gender diverse status to individuals who do not have a legitimate need for the information without the student’s consent and this includes parents or caretakers.”

The suit claims that staff are told they must use the student’s preferred name and pronoun with the student but use the student’s legal name and biologically appropriate pronouns when speaking to parents. It also alleges that employees are told to tell parents who ask questions to answer that their “inquiry is outside of the scope of the intent of their interaction” and that they can only talk about “information regarding the student’s behavior as it relates to school, class rules, assignments, etc.”

Mirabelli and West were granted partial religious accommodations by the district so they are not required to use a student’s preferred name or pronouns, but they were denied an accommodation on the policy requiring them to hide the student’s gender transition from their parents.

Mirabelli questioned the policy by asking,

“How do educators know better than their own parents and families? Why are we taking over the welfare of these kids and decisions as personal as their given name? I just felt that was really overstepping as a teacher, as an educator. That’s overstepping our role in their lives. And then we’re not allowed to tell their parents? I thought it just doesn’t seem right.”

She said that encouraging the students to lie to their parents was harming the bond between a child and their parents. “I think people from all walks of life can understand that educators have a certain role. Our role in a free society is to prepare [students] academically, to go out and achieve their goals and dreams; to compete, to attend college. It’s not to overstep those bounds,” she continued.

“We’re affirming all these social trends, but we send them out into the world, and they can’t go to college and compete because they can’t access the high levels of literacy that are required to become a scientist, a doctor, a lawyer, or a teacher. That’s the problem. We need to go back to focusing on our job.”

Jeffrey Trissell, special counsel for Thomas More Society, pointed out that, ironically, the policy violates the district’s Board Policy Manual. The Professional Standards say that “Being dishonest with students, parents/guardians, staff, or members of the public” is inappropriate conduct.

“That is the same manual that itemizes the district ‘Philosophy’ to include, ‘Parents/guardians have a right and an obligation to be engaged in their child’s education and to be involved in the intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development and well-being of their child.’ Yet the Escondido Union School District thinks it is alright to deliberately and intentionally lie to these same parents and guardians,’” he stated.

Thomas More Society Special Counsel Paul Jonna said that he was surprised at how prevalent these policies are — not just in California but across many states. He cited the case of former Kansas teacher Pamela Ricard, who won a $95,000 settlement after her school district enacted a policy that would require her to lie to parents about a student’s gender transition.

“[There’s] no question in my mind: There’s definitely been coordination on a higher level,” he stated. “I’m very interested to learn more about that. It’s something that I don’t know. But how [have] these policies crept in school districts all across San Diego, and all across California, and probably many, many states? I’m sure that there were large, powerful organizations behind these policies, but I’m just speculating right now. I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.”

Jonna is correct. This push is coming from somewhere other than just local school districts. He’s also correct that these policies aren’t limited to one district or one state. Districts all around the U.S. are imposing such policies. School districts in Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa, and more have been sued by parents and parents groups after it was discovered they were aiding students in gender transitions and hiding it from their parents. These are districts that we hear about because of legal challenges, but how many other districts have imposed these policies without being sued?

Mirabelli and West would probably have rather stayed silent, taken their religious accommodation, which was an act of courage in itself, and went on with their lives, but they didn’t. They stood up and risked being ostracized and possibly even terminated in order to follow God’s commands to tell the truth and protect children. As William Wolfe wrote in the Standing for Freedom Center’s Biblical Worldview article,

“Right now, what so many Christians (and pastors) across our country need more than almost anything else is courage.

Because you can believe that children should be protected from radical gender ideology and groomers. You can know that preborn babies are deserving of equal protection under the law. You can argue that churches shouldn’t let the government shut them down while they let liquor stores and strip clubs stay open. You can see that William “Lia” Thomas is a man and had no business competing against girls in NCAA swimming.

But if you never find the courage to speak out — or even better, do something — about these problems, then what good are your convictions?”

In 1 Corinthians 16:13 Paul wrote, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

When teachers, parents, principals, school board members, or others see some wrong going on the easy thing to do is to shake your head and move on. The right thing to do is to stand up and do something about it. That’s what Elizabeth Mirabelli, Lori Ann West, Tanner Cross, John Kluge, Pamela Ricard, and others have done, and their willingness to speak the truth will save both children and families from destruction.

And hopefully, by their courage and their actions, they will inspire others who see wrong to stand up for what’s right.

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.

Not Just Conservative.

Christian conservative news and issues that matter. Curated just for you!

Tired of your social media feed being censored?

For more timely, informative, and faith-based content, subscribe to the Standing for Freedom Center Newsletter

Join us in our mission to secure the foundations of freedom for future generations
Donate Now
Completing this poll entitles you to receive communications from Liberty University free of charge.  You may opt out at any time.  You also agree to our Privacy Policy.