PORTLAND — A former Portland-area teacher who was escorted from his local high school by police over his continued opposition to Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit against his school district after his teaching contract was terminated following internal scrutiny.
As previously reported, Bill Diss, an 11-year math and computer science teacher at Benson High School in Portland, was removed from the school by police this past March because he refused to allow the organization in his classroom. Planned Parenthood had visited Diss’ class to urge students to sign up for its Teen Outreach Program (TOP) as it was seeking to recruit youth throughout the school.
Diss has been speaking out against the organization publicly since 2007.
According to reports, Planned Parenthood of Columbia Williamette began promoting the program at Benson High School last year, which allegedly contains teaching about premarital sex, contraception and abortion. In September 2012, two representatives from the organization showed up at Diss’ door, hoping to speak to students. However, the math and computer science teacher, who identifies as a Roman Catholic, would not let Planned Parenthood enter and asked the representatives to leave.
Following Diss’ refusal to allow the representatives into his classroom, the principal and vice principal of the school paid Diss a visit and temporarily removed him from the class. Planned Parenthood also filed a complaint against the teacher. The next day, he was forced to sit in on a Planned Parenthood presentation.
“They were extremely aggressive in obtaining the children’s signatures by promising them all sorts of gifts and cash,” Diss said.
Later, Diss also took issue with TOP permission forms that were being sent home with some students, which bore his name. His attorney contacted Planned Parenthood and the school, demanding that they retract statements on the form that appeared as if Diss approved of the program. They threatened a lawsuit, stating that Diss was being harassed for his beliefs about the organization.
Diss said that the school then began sending him regular notes that questioned his teaching skills and methods. He was required to attend numerous hearings, and in November of last year, he faced a formal misconduct hearing that weighed whether or not he could keep his teaching credentials. While some contended that Diss was “rude” to students and others, the teacher asserted that the allegations were cloaked to avert that he was being targeted due to his stand against Planned Parenthood. In December, the Portland Public School District voted 6-1 to terminate his teaching contract.
On Wednesday, attorneys for Diss filed a lawsuit seeking $390,000 in damages for what they contend was a wrongful and discriminatory termination.
“Because he expressed his opposition to the activities of Planned Parenthood at Benson High School, [Diss] became a target,” the legal challenge reads. “They launched a full-scale assault on the plaintiff as a teacher. He was observed and evaluated on the most minute aspects of his teaching.”
It asserts that the scrutiny was instigated years ago by publicity he received for his pro-life work in the area.
“As the attention mounted, the plaintiff was summoned for questioning by Benson High School administrators,” the lawsuit states. “He was interrogated about his activities by the principal and by an attorney for the district. The activities in question occurred on his own time, not at school, nonetheless he was specifically instructed not to mention the fact that he was a teacher or where he worked when making public statements.”
The district is denying the accusations.
“The school district believes the allegations he has brought up in a legal matter do not have merit, and we will continue through the process to prove that,” spokesperson Christine Miles told The Oregonian this week.
But pro-life groups are hopeful that Diss will succeed in his legal challenge.
“While this is only the beginning, we trust that Mr. Diss will ultimately be vindicated, and that future, well-qualified teachers will not be subjected to discipline and termination from employment for their religious and moral beliefs,” said Dana Cody of the Life Legal Defense Foundation.