Culture

California gym teacher who said she was fired for Christian beliefs will get $360,000


Former Jurupa Valley High School teacher Jessica Tapia will receive $360,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging she was wrongfully fired for refusing to hide students' transgender identities from their parents. (Courtesy of Advocates for Faith & Freedom)

The Jurupa Unified School District in Riverside County will pay $360,000 to a former high school gym teacher who alleged she was fired for refusing to follow policies recognizing students’ transgender identities, a conservative law firm announced Tuesday, May 14.

Former Jurupa Valley High School teacher Jessica Tapia will receive $360,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging she was wrongfully fired for refusing to hide students’ transgender identities from their parents. (Courtesy of Advocates for Faith & Freedom) 

The settlement, disclosed by the Murrieta-based Advocates for Faith & Freedom, ends a lawsuit filed last year in federal court by Jessica Tapia, who accused the district of violating her civil and First Amendment rights when it terminated her in January 2023.

“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,” Tapia said in the Advocates’ news release.

“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.”

The settlement “serves as a reminder that religious freedom is protected, no matter your career,” Julianne Fleischer, an Advocates lawyer, said in the release.

“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 Monday, May 13, according to a statement issued by district spokesperson Jacqueline Paul.

“The district has not admitted any fault or wrongdoing as part of this settlement,” the statement read.

“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.”

According to her lawsuit, Tapia attended Jurupa Valley High School and had been a district employee in various capacities since 2014 before becoming the high school’s only female physical education teacher in 2021.

Tapia, a Christian who believes God created two sexes — male and female — was placed on paid administrative leave in 2022 after “some issues had been brought to the District’s attention regarding her personal social media posts,” the lawsuit states.

The district “sent Ms. Tapia numerous, unfounded allegations,” accusing her of writing bigoted social media posts, “proselytizing during P.E. class” and not referring to students by their preferred pronouns even though no student asked her to, the lawsuit alleged.

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