In Mirabelli v. Olson, (SD CA, Sept. 14, 2023), a California federal district court granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Escondido Union School District from taking any adverse employment action against two teachers who have religious objections to the school district’s policy of faculty confidentiality when communicating with parents about a student’s change in gender identity. The court said in part:
The result of the new EUSD policy is that a teacher ordinarily may not disclose to a parent 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 – names, genders, or pronouns that are different from the birth name and birth gender of the student. Under the policy at issue, accurate communication with parents is permitted only if the child first gives its consent to the school….
The plaintiffs in this action are two experienced, well-qualified, teachers. The teachers maintain sincere religious beliefs that communications with a parent about a student should be accurate; communications should not be calculated to deceive or mislead a student’s parent….
… Mirabelli believes that the relationship between parents and children is an inherently sacred and life-long bond, ordained by God, in which the parents have the ultimate right and responsibility to care for and guide their children….. In a similar vein, West believes that the relationship between parents and their child is created by God with the intent that the parents have the ultimate responsibility to raise and guide their child. Both Mirabelli and West believe that God forbids lying and deceit…
EUSD contends that the government purpose of protecting gender diverse students from (an undefined) harm is a compelling governmental interest and the policy of non-disclosure to parents is narrowly tailored…. This argument is unconvincing. First, both the Ninth Circuit and the Supreme Court have found overly broad formulations of compelling government interests unavailing…. Second, keeping parents uninformed and unaware of significant events that beg for medical and psychological experts to evaluate a child, like hiding a gym student’s soccer concussion, is precisely the type of inaction that is likely to cause greater harm and is not narrowly tailored. ….
In the end, Mirabelli and West face an unlawful choice along the lines of: “lose your faith and keep your job, or keep your faith and lose your job.”… The only meaningful justification the District offers for its insistence that the plaintiffs not reveal to parents gender information about their own children rests on a mistaken view that the District bears a duty to place a child’s right to privacy above, and in derogation of, the rights of a child’s parents….
[Thanks to Jeffrey Trissell for the lead.]