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California Teacher Who Says She Was Fired for Christian Beliefs Gets $360K
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By News
Published 2 weeks ago on
May 16, 2024

Former gym teacher Jessica Tapia receives a $360,000 settlement after claiming termination over her refusal to comply with transgender policy. Her situation sparked Advocates for Faith & Freedom's "Teachers Don't Lie" campaign. (Instagram/imjessicatapia)

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The Jurupa Unified School District in Riverside County has agreed to pay $360,000 to Jessica Tapia, a former high school gym teacher who claimed she was terminated for refusing to adhere to policies that recognized students’ transgender identities.

The conservative law firm Advocates for Faith & Freedom announced the settlement on Tuesday, the Press-Enterprise in Riverside reported.

This settlement concludes a lawsuit that Tapia filed in federal court last year. Tapia argued that the district violated her civil and First Amendment rights when she was fired in January 2023.

Tapia Speaks Out on the Case

In a statement from Advocates for Faith & Freedom, Tapia expressed her determination: “What happened to me can happen to anybody, and I want the next teacher to know that it is worth it to take a stand for what is right. 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.”

Julianne Fleischer, a lawyer with Advocates, highlighted the importance of the settlement: “The settlement serves as a reminder that religious freedom is protected, no matter your career. 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.”

The Jurupa school board approved the settlement on Monday, May 13. District spokesperson Jacqueline Paul stated, “The district has not admitted any fault or wrongdoing as part of this settlement. The decision to settle this case was made in conjunction with the district’s self-insurance administrators and in the best interest of the students, such that the district would be able to dedicate all of its resources and efforts to its student population regardless of their protected class.”

Placed on Leave Over Social Media Posts

According to her lawsuit, Tapia, who attended Jurupa Valley High School, had been employed by the district in various roles since 2014 before becoming the high school’s only female physical education teacher in 2021. A Christian who believes that God created two sexes, Tapia was placed on paid administrative leave in 2022 after the district raised concerns about her personal social media posts.

The lawsuit claimed that the district accused Tapia of making bigoted social media posts, proselytizing during P.E. class, and not using students’ preferred pronouns, even though no student had requested this. The district also instructed Tapia to keep students’ transgender identities from their parents, use students’ preferred pronouns, and refrain from sharing her faith and opinions on social media or discussing religious beliefs with students.

These directives caused Tapia “severe mental and emotional anguish,” as she felt torn between violating her religious beliefs and losing her job, according to the lawsuit.

Since her dismissal, Tapia has been vocal at school board meetings in the Inland Empire, promoting Christian conservative views. She is also featured in social media posts for Our Watch, a program by conservative Pastor Tim Thompson, who helped elect similar-minded candidates to local school boards in 2022.

Advocates and Tapia have announced the launch of the Teachers Don’t Lie campaign, which aims to educate teachers about their constitutional rights and provide options for responding to school district demands that conflict with their religious beliefs.

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