In today’s public schools, a teacher may have moral principles or religious beliefs, but sharing them can get you fired, as a California teacher learned.
Jessica Tapia, fired in January, had returned to teach in the Jurupa Valley school district where, as a student, she had earned straight-As and participated in numerous sports. As a physical education teacher, she won high evaluations for her guidance of the district’s students.
But a little over a year ago, somebody saw a social-media post where Tapia expressed disapproval of a department store’s “pride” clothing for babies and small children. The viewer deemed this intolerant and filed a complaint to the school district about Tapia’s personal post. The district’s “investigation” was broadened to include 13 accusations, mostly Tapia’s quotations of moral or religious sayings, as though they were somehow illegal or in violation of school policy. Eventually the district presented Tapia with its “evidence” — mainly screen grabs of her own posts — and fired her.
Tapia, who has sued the district alleging violation of her First Amendment and civil rights, is not accused of any illegal action and was told during the run-up to her dismissal that the school district could not “accommodate” her religious convictions.
Upon learning of the district’s distaste for her personal beliefs, Tapia told Siyamak Khorrami of The Epoch Times, she asked herself, “Do I not have the freedom to stand for what I believe in?”
The district’s action essentially answered that question.
Drilling a bit deeper,Tapia said one of the sticking points during the investigation had to do with district policies governing recognition of students’ transgender identities. The district, the lawsuit states, wanted Tapia to withhold students’ transgender identities from parents. “I asked if they wanted me to lie to parents,” Tapia said at a recent meeting of the Redlands Tea Party Patriots, “and they said ‘yes.’ I wouldn’t do it.”
Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a law firm dedicated to protecting constitutional and religious liberty, is representing Tapia in the lawsuit. Mariah Gondeiro, a counsel for the firm, said, “People of faith should be allowed to maintain their personal beliefs without fear of losing their job.”
During her talk to the Redlands group, Tapia said, “They want you to fear them. But I fear God,.”