Oregon high school teacher fired for pro-life activism
PORTLAND, OR, December 17, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Bill Diss, the pro-life teacher who got into trouble with school administrators after objecting to being forced to facilitate presentations by Planned Parenthood, has been fired by the Portland Public School District.
Diss’s attorneys argue that he was wrongly terminated because of his religious beliefs, and have vowed to pursue legal action. “Bill Diss is a well-qualified teacher with a track record of success,” said Dana Cody, President and Executive Director of Life Legal Defense Foundation. “As the circumstances surrounding this termination demonstrate, Mr. Diss has done nothing that would merit being fired from his job. LLDF will pursue every possible avenue in defending Mr. Diss’ rights in this matter, and hopes to see his rights ultimately protected despite PPS’ actions.”
Prior to his being placed on administrative leave in March, Diss had taught math and technology at Benson High School since 2002.
For the first five years of his employment, his reviews were consistently positive. But in 2007, Diss began to speak out in opposition to the building of a new Planned Parenthood facility in downtown Portland. His pro-life activism was done on his own time, outside of class and off campus. But when school administrators with ties to Planned Parenthood found out about his activities, he found himself the target of a sudden onslaught of complaints, reprimands and negative evaluations.
The controversy came to a head early last school year when presenters with the Teen Outreach Program (TOP) – a teen pregnancy prevention program run by Planned Parenthood and funded by a federal government grant – showed up at Diss’s classroom to give a recruitment pitch to students. Diss, who had not been warned that they were coming, followed district policy and requested identification.
When he was handed a card that identified the presenters as employees of Planned Parenthood, he was surprised and upset. At first, he tried to block them from coming into the class at all, but Principal Carol Campbell demanded they be granted access. Because of his Catholic beliefs, Diss felt that he could not in good conscience participate in the presentation, so he asked Campbell if he could be excused. The principal denied his request and told him he had to stay.
Afterward, Diss was hit with a fresh round of disciplinary investigations, including numerous classroom observations and meetings with school administrators. Throughout the year, he was required to work with Planned Parenthood officials to facilitate their outreach program, despite his strong religious objections to their work.
Finally, in March, he was accused of “unprofessional, intimidating and/or harassing behavior” by school officials over comments students alleged he had made in opposition to Planned Parenthood, including his assertion that “they kill over a million babies every three years,” according to one suspension letter. Diss was ordered to leave his job and escorted off campus by police.
Kathi Koenig, the teachers’ union representative who helped LLDF represent Diss, said he should not have been disciplined or fired, but put on a plan of assistance. But a lawyer for the district insisted his firing was justified, saying his behavior was “damaging to kids and effective working relationships.”
Calls by LifeSiteNews to Portland Public School District officials seeking comment were not returned by press time.