A federal judge on Wednesday ordered a San Diego-area school district to reinstate two teachers who were placed on administrative leave for refusing to keep students’ gender transitions a secret from parents.
The order from Judge Roger Benitez says the teachers, who haven’t been allowed in their classrooms since last May, must be allowed to return by next Tuesday, Jan. 15. In September, Benitez blocked their employer, Escondido Union School District, from forcing them to comply with their policy to socially transition kids to different gender identities behind their parents’ backs.
"Both sides are expected to work in good faith going forward to resolve this matter," Benitez wrote Wednesday.
The order comes as the fight over schools’ secret gender transitions heats up in California. This week Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is expected to run for governor in 2026, filed a legal brief with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to support a Northern California school district that socially transitioned an 11-year-old girl to a boy without her mother knowing. The girl’s mother lost her initial federal lawsuit against the policy and is appealing a ruling that conflicts with Benitez’s September judgment.
Bonta has already launched a lawsuit against a Southern California school district that prohibited teachers and administrators from keeping kids’ gender confusion secret from parents—and won a temporary hold on that policy from a state court.
Meanwhile, grassroots activists are collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would bar schools from keeping children’s gender confusion secret from parents while also banning high school boys from competing on girls’ sports teams or accessing girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms.
The teachers in the Escondido case are Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West, who were denied a religious exemption from their district’s secrecy policy—which was adopted without any school board or public input. Administrators did not tell parents that it was in place, according to legal filings that also reveal a district social worker telling staff that parents and guardians "do not have a legitimate need for the information" about their child’s gender identity.
Attorneys for the school district instructed Mirabelli and West to stonewall any parent who might ask them about their child’s gender identity. At the same time, school counselors were guiding students’ gender transitions, using a "gender support plan" for the children and broadcasting to staff through regular emails which kids to start socially transitioning and how to conceal the fact from their parents.