An annotated version of a press release sent to Willamette Week by Tom Ciesielka of TC Public Relations of Chicago concerning the recent termination of longtime Portland teacher Bill Diss who, on Monday, was reportedly fired by Portland school board. Our annotations are in italics.
Portland, Oregon: On Monday, December 16, 2013 the school board for the Portland Public School District voted to terminate the teaching contract of Bill Diss, a teacher who has been an outspoken opponent of Planned Parenthood.
It's always disappointing someone's Constitutional rights are not vigorously defended by all people, just because some people find the exercise of a particular right to be morally unconscionable. Freedom of speech is a Constitutional right.
(So is having an abortion.)
Mr. Diss experienced censure in his teaching career beginning in 2007 when he publically [sic] opposed the building of a new Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in downtown Portland. The current action follows Mr. Dissâ opposition to being forced to facilitate presenters from the Teen Outreach Program (TOP), a program administered by Planned Parenthood, coming into his tutorial session to recruit students.
This is a very courageous stand. Clearly Mr. Diss was willing to stand up for his political and religious convictions inside the classroom.
âBill Diss is a well qualified teacher with a track record of success,â states Dana Cody, President and Executive Director of Life Legal Defense Foundation. âAs 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. Dissâ rights in this matter, and hopes to see his rights ultimately protected despite PPSâ actions.
It's always nice to see organizations standing up to defend the Constitutional rights of Americans. It's hard for me to find fault with any organization that exists primarily to stand up for Constitutional rights.
Bill Diss has taught Technology, Math, Computers and Electronics at Benson High School since 2002. He has also taught several classes at the community college level. He is highly regarded in his abilities and his success both by students themselves, by their parents, and fellow teachers. Mr. Diss is the only teacher in the state of Oregon who has been certified as qualified to teach college level computer science to high school students for dual credit. His initiative and hard work have attracted outside grants to Benson opening up even greater opportunities for Benson students. For the first five years at Benson High, Mr. Diss was rated as proficient or better, with numerous positive compliments in his reviews. Mr. Dissâ methodology and teaching style has remained substantially the same in all his years of teaching.
This unfortunate situation really underlines the importance of tenured teaching positions, continuing contracts and unions that can protect the basic rights of public employees.
The positive reviews took a dramatic change for the worse, however, when Mr. Diss began to speak out in opposition to the building of a new Planned Parenthood facility in downtown Portland. Mr. Diss 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. Dissâ life at school for as long as he engaged in outspoken, public opposition to Planned Parenthood.
Wait a second...
Shortly after the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, presenters with the Teen Outreach Program (TOP) came to Mr. Dissâ tutorial classes to give a presentation recruiting students for the TOP program. When presenters entered the tutorial, Mr. Diss, consistent with District policy, asked for identification. He was handed a card that identified the presenters as employees of Planned Parenthood. This knowledge surprised Mr. Diss, and caused him serious emotional distress due to his well-known personal religious convictions and his years of work to oppose that organization.
This sounds like a possible tort claim. It's important that people who have suffered serious emotional distress be given access to our courts. But how would the school have known about his well-known personal convictions, given that Mr. Diss kept them separate from his place of employment? It's all very strange.
He expressed his dilemma to Benson Principal, Carol Campbell at the time and asked to be excused from being present for the presentation due to his religious convictions. His request was denied.
Do teachers get "personal time" to engage in acts of political protest during the school day? Do they have the freedom to not hear opinions that are not their own? I have not heard of that. Seems legit, though!
He was told that he would be required to be present for the TOP presentation. Through the remainder of the school year during which he taught, Mr. Diss continued to have to deal with Planned Parenthood staff as they administered the TOP program.
It must be very unpleasant to deal with people who strongly disagree with you on an issue as divisive as this one, loitering about your place of employment. If there's any silver lining here, it's the fact that Planned Parenthood's supporters do not have a long documented history of violence in pursuing their agenda. At least Mr. Diss was able to feel safe at his workplace, even though he was surrounded by people whom he disagrees with.
Simultaneous to his request not to be involved with TOP, Mr. Dissâ teaching came under renewed censorial review. 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 returnâplacing 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.
It's really a shame that anyone would need to be escorted to or from their place of employment by armed police officers because they have an unpopular position on a divisive issue.
About Life Legal Defense Foundation Life Legal Defense Foundation was established in 1989, and is a nonprofit organization composed of attorneys and other concerned citizens committed to giving helpless and innocent human beings of any age, and their advocates, a trained and committed voice in the courtrooms of our nation. For more information about the Life Legal Defense Foundation, visit www.lldf.org
If you go to LLDF.org, read this article about Obamacare, which links to an article about why the fight against abortion starts with the fight against contraception.