Christian Teacher Fired Because She ‘Cannot Be Dishonest with Parents’
The cost of following Christ just hit home in a new way for one California teacher who was fired for refusing to tell lies about biological reality or hide student’s gender transitions from their parents. Jurupa Unified School District served physical education teacher Jessica Tapia, mother of three, with a Notice of Unprofessional Conduct for not embracing the district’s new polices promoting transgender identities and, on January 31, fired her after determining it could not accommodate her religious beliefs.
District administrators directed Tapia “to refrain from disclosing the gender identity of a student who is transgender to a parent who does not know the student’s gender identity” and “to address students by their preferred name and preferred gender pronouns.” But she told them that her religious beliefs made her “unable to comply” with the two directives.
“I knew immediately, like in my gut, in my heart, in my soul, that there was a decision I had to make because, you know, these two things were totally butting heads,” said Tapia. “I essentially had to pick one. Am I going to obey the district in the directive[s] that are not lining up with … my own beliefs, convictions, and faith? Or am I going to stay true … choose my faith, choose to be obedient to … the way the Lord has called me to live. And so it was crazy to be in the position where I realized that I couldn’t be a Christian and a teacher.”
Tapia’s refusal is biblical. Jesus distinguished our obligations to temporal versus divine authority, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Whenever a human authority contradicts God by commanding anything God forbids or forbidding anything God commands, a person must choose whom to obey. When ordered not to evangelize, Peter and John applied Jesus’ teaching, “whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). They state the conclusion in the next chapter, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
The Jurupa Unified directives directly contradict the teachings of Scripture. Elsewhere Jesus cited Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 to argue that God created male and female, marriage and family.
“He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).
Jesus applied these teachings to condemn divorce, but his logic applies equally to any human rejection of God’s divinely established order for biological sex, marriage, and family. The directive to affirm a student in a gender identity other than the one God gave them denies God’s authority to create them male and female. The directive to hide such a gender identity from parents is not only lying, but it also undermines the parent’s God-given authority over their children.
Therefore, complying with the demands Jurupa Unified made on Tapia would have been sinful. If any other Christian in her situation had agreed to affirm false gender identities and hide them from parents, then his or her church would have legitimate grounds to put such a member under church discipline, as Jesus spelled out in Matthew 18:15-17, and even for removing such a member if they proved unrepentant. This means that the policy of Jurupa Unified School District, as applied to Tapia, would prevent any Bible-believing Christian from teaching in their schools — as Tapia said, “I realized that I couldn’t be a Christian and a teacher.”
However, it doesn’t follow necessarily that there are no Christians teaching in the Jurupa Unified School District, or in any district with similar policies. Tapia’s circumstances were unusual for another reason: she was targeted by a cancel campaign.
Activist students scoured Tapia’s social media accounts, digging up old posts and reporting her to district for “unsafe” conduct. “Some of the allegations, the evidence they submitted for them, were literally Bible verses that I posted,” Tapia said. “Some of the allegations were that I was not calling students by their preferred gender or pronouns, which was very interesting, too, because I had never had a student come to me … with, ‘Mrs. Tapia, I would like you to call me this.’” No parents had complained about Tapia’s performance as a teacher; the ouster was entirely student-driven.
Following this student troublemaking, district officials served Tapia with a Notice of Unprofessional Conduct with the anti-Christian directives at a September 30 meeting. Tapia then began a 12-week “medical leave” — a category that also covers “the birth and care of [a] newborn child” — after which she told the district her faith did not permit her to follow their directives. She also forbade students with “male genitalia” from entering the female locker room, another moral defiance of the school district’s policies.
The school district held one final meeting on January 13 “to discuss your religious beliefs and to gather information to allow the District to determine whether it can accommodate your religious beliefs while remaining compliant with California law,” it told Tapia. The school district then informed Tapia it would “release you from your employment” on January 31, which is rather a euphemistic phrase for a public school to use to mean firing someone for her religious beliefs.
Jurupa Unified apparently hushed up Tapia’s ouster, as if they were ashamed about it or had something to hide. “I’m not aware that the parents were made aware. I’m pretty sure it was just — I left, they slid a sub in and that was it,” said Tapia. I know a close coworker there, the other female PE teacher at the high school; she was even unsure why I was gone.”
In fact, it seems that Jurupa Unified did have something to hide. Tapia said of the September 30 meeting, “I made sure to clarify, too, with [the] district personnel that were sitting across from me. I looked them in the eye, and I said, ‘Are you asking me to lie to parents?’ and they said, ‘Yes. It’s the law.’”
This is false, of course. California law stipulates that “parents … have an absolute right to access to any and all pupil records related to their children.” In fact, accessing student records requires parental consent most cases. But if a school district is simply following the direction of the California Department of Education (CDE), they wouldn’t know that.
A CDE FAQ page answers the question, “May a student’s gender identity be shared with the student’s parents … ?” with the following paragraph (emphasis added):
“A transgender or gender nonconforming student may not express their gender identity openly in all contexts, including at home. Revealing a student’s gender identity or expression to others may compromise the student’s safety. Thus, preserving a student’s privacy is of the utmost importance. The right of transgender students to keep their transgender status private is grounded in California’s antidiscrimination laws as well as federal and state laws. Disclosing that a student is transgender without the student’s permission may violate California’s anti-discrimination law by increasing the student’s vulnerability to harassment and may violate the student’s right to privacy.”
While ignoring the clear text of California’s law, which entrusts student privacy to their parents, the CDE here suggests that 1) a students’ right to privacy is distinct from parental protection, and 2) if parents knew, it might put students at risk. It further states vaguely that student privacy is “grounded in” various laws, but none of the examples they give explain why a student’s right to privacy should not be entrusted to the protective guardianship of parents.
However, this novel interpretation from the CDE is sweeping California school districts. Last fall, San Francisco USD adopted an “LGBTQ Student Services” guidebook ordering teachers to hide students’ gender transition from parents. Apparently, Jurupa Unified adopted a similar policy.
In a statement, Jurupa Unified tried to defend their actions by passing the buck to other levels of government, “The District takes seriously its obligation to accommodate its employee’s religious beliefs. Simultaneously, the District is obligated to comply with all local, state, and federal laws, including anti-discrimination laws and laws that protect students’ rights to privacy.”
“According to my school district,” Tapia explained, “students have privacy. And so if a student shares information regarding a pronoun preference or thinking there may be the opposite gender of what they biologically are, if they share that information with a teacher, we are supposed to keep that info from parents in case the parent doesn’t know.”
“There’s so many issues with that,” she continued. “How do we know the parent doesn’t know? Number two, … we’re talking [about] 12, 13, 14, 15-year-olds. I don’t believe [kids] should have this ‘privacy’ to where their parents are being left in the dark about some very pertinent information about their well-being.”
There is no question Jurupa Unified School District fired Jessica Tapia because of her religious beliefs. It restated her beliefs to show it understood them. It appropriately applied those beliefs to the context. And then it fired her for holding to them.
“During the meeting, you informed that District that: 1. You are a follow of the Christian faith. You believe that God created man and woman and that God creates every individual to be the person with the gender assigned in the womb and at birth,” wrote the school district. So far, so good, although the “in the womb and at birth” seems a bit redundant.
“Based on your religious beliefs, you cannot be dishonest with parents. … If asked about a student’s gender identity by a parent, you cannot refer the parent to a counselor, defer the inquiry and suggest they speak with a student … or otherwise deflect the parent’s inquiry,” they continued. Yes, that’s how things stand.
And then they came to this conclusion: “the district cannot accommodate your religious beliefs that … prohibit you from maintaining a student’s gender identity and refraining from disclosing a student’s gender identity from his/her/their parent(s)/guardians.” Wow.
In moment like these, the rainbow movement reveals it’s actually not tolerant at all. It not only declares sexual normalcy disfavored and discourages teachers from telling the truth, but it also declares outright that it won’t even accommodate such values. “We’re talking about children. This is a very moldable time in life … [when] the brain is developing and it’s so important that you have … good people to look up to, good models in your life, good teaching,” said Tapia.
Firing Tapia is ultimately the school district’s loss. Tapia became a teacher because she wanted to “be a light to [kids] possibly coming from very rough homes,” and she found the work rewarding “way beyond a paycheck.” The public school system has too few teachers like that. Perhaps that’s why they shamefacedly concealed her unreasonable termination.
Tapia, represented by the Pacific Justice Institute, plans to file a lawsuit against the school district alleging religious discrimination. “We are waiting for a right to sue letter from the EEOC [U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], and then we will proceed from there,” she said.
When school personnel told her to lie to parents, Tapia reminded them that the district asks teachers to “uphold honesty. … But now I’m learning it’s situational. You want me only to be honest in this situation [at this review] but when it comes to parents being aware of the basic well-being and knowledge of their child, I cannot be honest.”
This, again, is a demand Tapia could not, as a Christian, comply with. As the first mark of Christians putting on the new self in the Spirit, Paul says, “having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25).
Tapia said she doesn’t believe God is “calling us to love by affirming those lies and confusion. I believe firmly that God created man and woman, and you are who he made you to be. And when someone has confusion about that, I believe that’s lies and confusion from the devil.”
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.