The Life Legal Defense Fund (LLDF) is reporting that the teaching contract of Bill Diss, a Math and Computer teacher at Benson High School in the Portland Public School District, was terminated on December 16.
Employed as a teacher by the school since 2002, Diss was consistently rated as being proficient or better as a teacher by the District until 2007 when he publicly opposed the building of a new Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in downtown Portland. From that point on, he was subject to constant censure by school administrators.
According to the LLDF, which is representing Mr. Diss, he was involved in opposition activities on his own time, and did not bring his political or religious convictions into his instruction in the classroom.
"Nonetheless, he began to experience complaints about his political activities from school administrators, and his teaching came under sudden, rigorous scrutiny. Complaints, negative evaluations, letters of reprimand and formal meetings became a regular part of Mr. Diss’ life at school for as long as he engaged in outspoken, public opposition to Planned Parenthood."
Matters came to a head during the 2012-2013 school year when employees of Planned Parenthood came to his class to present a sex education program known as the Teen Outreach Program (TOP). Diss' religious convictions and opposition to Planned Parenthood were well-known and when he asked to be excused from the presentation due to his moral beliefs, his request was denied. Benson's principal, Carol Campbell, told him that he would be required to be present for the TOP presentation. During the remainder of the school year, he was forced to deal with Planned Parenthood staff as they administered the program.
"Simultaneous to his request not to be involved with TOP, Mr. Diss’ teaching came under renewed censorial review," the LLDF reports.
"Mr. Diss accepted the input from school administration, but the year proved to be extremely stressful, including numerous classroom observations and meetings with school administration. On March 19, 2013 school administrators summarily demanded that Mr. Diss leave the school premises and not return—placing him on paid administrative leave. Mr. Diss was told to leave the school and was escorted off the premises by a police officer. This unnecessary show of force is symbolic of the animus faced by Mr. Diss throughout the year."
On December 16, 2013, the school board voted to terminate his teaching contract. A representative of Students for Life of America (SLA), which has been closely monitoring the case, attended the meeting and filed a report with Life News about the moving testimony given on Diss' behalf by fellow teachers and parents.
"Among those who testified on behalf of Bill were his fellow math teacher, Dave Demaris, who testified to Diss’s abilities as a teacher and contributor to the school," the SLA rep reported.
"Parents of students that Bill had taught over the years spoke of his care and concerns for his students. One Latino mother testified that Bill was the only teacher who ever came to their community events or tried to great her in Spanish. She said 'He has helped us. We want him to teach our children and our children’s children.' She also mentioned that Diss had helped her nephew when he found out his girlfriend was pregnant and that the couple had chosen life as a result."
Diss also testified on his own behalf, mentioning his exemplary performance reviews and the amount of grant money that he brought to the school over the years.
The board adjourned for consultation, then came back and conducted a vote on solar panels which, unknown to the board members, also included the Diss firing. Combining the two matters came as such a surprise that one school board member demanded that his vote be changed to a "no". The other board members elected to keep their yes votes, which resulted in Diss being terminated.
“Bill Diss is a well qualified teacher with a track record of success,” states Dana Cody, LLDF President and Executive Director. “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.”
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