Judge Dismisses Discrimination Suit of Teacher Fired After Banning Planned Parenthood From Classroom

Teacher Bill Diss Photo: ABC News
Photo Credit: ABC News

PORTLAND, Ore. — A former Portland-area teacher who was escorted from his local high school by police over his continued opposition to Planned Parenthood has lost his federal lawsuit as a judge has dismissed the legal challenge.

The $390,000 lawsuit filed by Bill Diss was to have gone on trial this week, but Judge Paul Papak recently granted summary judgment to the school district that terminated his teaching contract.

“There is no evidence of discriminatory motive on the part of any school district employee. Rather, the evidence shows that the individual defendants were largely unaware of Diss’s religious beliefs until he began disrupting a school district program and behaving unprofessionally toward school district partners,” attorneys for Portland Public Schools had written in its motion for summary judgment.

“The school district respected Diss’s right to his individual religious beliefs, and he was disciplined and discharged because he failed to alter his pattern of repeated unprofessional conduct and did not meet the school district’s expectations with respect to teaching performance,” they wrote.

As previously reported, Diss, an 11-year math and computer science teacher at Benson High School in Portland, says says that he was removed from the school by police in March 2013 because he refused to allow Planned Parenthood representatives 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.

According to reports, Planned Parenthood of Columbia Williamette began promoting the program at Benson High School the year prior, 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.

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However, Diss, who identifies as a Roman Catholic, would not let Planned Parenthood enter and asked the representatives to leave.

Following his 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 2013, the Portland Public School District voted 6-1 to terminate his teaching contract.

In September 2014, Diss filed suit, seeking $390,000 in damages for what he contended 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 read. “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.”

This week, Portland Public Schools applauded Judge Papak’s decision to grant summary judgment instead of allowing the case to proceed to trial.

“We were pleased to hear that the judge ruled in favor of the district’s motion to dismiss the case in its entirety,” spokeswoman Courtney Westling told Oregon Live.

The Life Legal Defense Foundation, which is representing Diss in court, was not immediately available for comment. Their argument to allow the case to move to a trial may be read here.

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