Jessica Tapia Settles Wrongful Termination Suit with Jurupa School District Over Gender Identity Policy

Credit: Jessica Tapia/Instagram

An Inland Empire school district has settled a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Jessica Tapia, a former physical education teacher, for $360,000, as reported by CBS News. Tapia claims she was fired for not following the district's gender identity policies due to her religious beliefs.

Jessica Tapia says her ordeal began after she posted videos online criticizing major department stores for marketing LGBTQ clothing to young children. The Jurupa Unified School District, where she worked, was alerted to these videos, leading to her being pulled out of class.

Tapia was eventually allowed to return to work under the condition that she would follow specific directives, which she claims violated her Christian values. "From there on out, I needed to refer to students by their preferred pronoun, whatever gender they are saying they would like to be," Tapia explained. "And then, also withhold that from their parents for the student's privacy and safety."

Credit: Jessica Tapia/Instagram

Despite no student ever asking her to change their pronoun, Tapia was fired for stating she would theoretically handle the situation differently. The school district, in a statement, maintained that the settlement does not prove any illegal action or discrimination by the district.

Julianne Fleischer, an attorney with the nonprofit law firm Advocates for Faith and Freedom, represented Tapia. Fleischer argued that while students' civil rights should be protected, teachers shouldn't have to sacrifice their careers to preserve their religious convictions. "Tittle VII specifically requires an employer to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs and in Jessica's case, that absolutely could have happened," she said.

The district settled the case along with its self-insurance authority, citing the best interest of the students, regardless of their protected class. The district's statement emphasized that the settlement is not a win for Tapia but a compromise of a disputed claim.

Tapia hopes her story will inspire other educators to defend their rights. "I feel like that should send a loud and clear message to teachers who stand with me," she said. "I've had hundreds, if not thousands, voice that to me."

Fleischer suggested that reasonable accommodation could have been as simple as calling students by their last names instead of their preferred pronouns. She emphasized that religious rights are not second class to any other right and that their organization respects the transgender community and their rights.

This case has drawn attention to the balance between accommodating religious beliefs and protecting students' rights, highlighting the ongoing debate in educational environments.

Read Next: Lawsuit Challenges NCAA Over Transgender Athlete Participation in Women's Sports

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