California School District Settles with Christian Ex-Teacher Fired After Rejecting Transgender Policies

SIMI VALLEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: Jessica Tapia of "Our Watch," speaks at the Cali
Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A California school district has agreed to pay a Christian ex-teacher $360,000 in a settlement after she was fired following her refusal to hide students’ “gender identities” from parents and use students’ preferred pronouns.

This week, the Jurupa Unified School District Board approved a settlement with former high school P.E. teacher Jessica Tapia, her attorneys with Advocates for Faith and Freedom announced. Tapia filed a lawsuit against the district last year after the district refused to offer her religious accommodations to its transgender policies and ultimately fired her.

“Today’s settlement serves as a reminder that religious freedom is protected, no matter your career,” said Julianne Fleischer, legal counsel for Advocates for Faith and Freedom. “If the school district’s actions were legal, no teacher of faith would be qualified to serve as a public school teacher. Jessica’s story is one of faithful courage. She fought back to ensure her school district was held accountable and that no other teacher has to succumb to this type of discrimination.”

According to the lawsuit, trouble with the school district began when students found Tapia on social media  posting about various topics from her conservative-Christian perspective. Tapia’s social media did not make any mention of where she was employed, the complaint notes. Students ultimately reported her posts to the district, which led to the district placing her on paid administrative leave.

The district accused her of “posting offensive content on her public Instagram account, referencing her faith during conversations with students, and expressing controversial opinions on issues pertaining to gender identity,” the complaint states.

In several subsequent meetings, the district presented Tapia with pro-transgender directives, including requiring her to use students preferred pronouns, to “lie to parents about their children’s gender identity,” to “refrain from expressing her religious beliefs with students or on her social media,” and to allow students to use the bathroom or locker room that matched their preferred sex, the complaint alleges.

The complaint notes that as a Christian, 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,” the complaint continues. “But her faith precludes her from endorsing policies that cause her to reject her faith, such as facilitating a student’s gender transition or withholding information about it from the student’s parents.”

Ultimately, Tapia told the district she could not comply with those directives and asked for religious accommodations. The district denied accommodations and terminated her employment, the lawsuit states.

Tapia argued in the complaint that the district violated her 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. 

“The school district specifically terminated her because of her religious beliefs,” Fleischer told Fox News Digitial.

She continued:

What we’re seeing with these types of directives at school districts across the nation as they’re implementing these different transgender policies and threatening teachers and educators with termination from their employment, is a type of religious test … because what they’re essentially saying is you need to ascribe to our own religion or you’re no longer qualified to serve as a public school teacher. And so, Jessica’s religious beliefs become second class to the school district’s ideology as it relates to transgender and transgender policies.

“What the district has done and with this type of test, it essentially makes it so no teacher of faith is qualified to serve in a public school setting,” she added.

Tapia said in a statement that “what happened to me can happen to anybody.”

“[A]nd I want the next teacher to know that it is worth it to take a stand for what is right,” Tapia. said. “Across the country, we are seeing teachers’ freedom of speech and religious liberty violated through policies that require them to forsake their morals. I want teachers to be confident in the fact that the best thing we can do for students is educate in truth, not deception.”

“This is why I’m joining forces with Advocates for Faith and Freedom to launch Teachers Don’t Lie, a resource that will be committed to giving a voice of truth to teachers. I am confident that we are making progress to ensure that no teacher has their faith violated within schoolhouse gates again,” she continued.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, the Jurupa Unified School District said: “The settlement is not a win for Ms. Tapia but is in compromise of a disputed claim.”

“Ms. Tapia is no longer an employee of the District and has agreed and understands that she may not seek reemployment with the District,” the district spokesperson said. “The settlement certainly does not state or prove any illegal action or discrimination by the District. The District continues to deny any illegal action or discrimination against Ms. Tapia.”

The spokesperson emphasized that the district has not admitted any wrongdoing by entering into a settlement:

The decision to settle this case was made in conjunction with the District’s self-insurance authority and in the best interest of the students, such that the District can continue to dedicate all of its resources and efforts to educate and support its student population regardless of their protected class. The Jurupa Unified School District remains committed to providing all students with a safe and welcoming learning environment. The District will continue to follow all local, state, and federal laws, including laws against harassment and discrimination to protect its students and employees.

The case is Tapia v. Jurupa Unified School District, No. 5:23-cv-789 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. 

Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on X @thekat_hamilton.


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