Fired Portland pro-life teacher case advances

By Christian News Northwest

A California-based legal services organization indicates the battle is likely not over regarding the firing of Portland school teacher Bill Diss.

“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 (LLDF) in Napa, Calif.. “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’s rights in this matter, and hopes to see his rights ultimately protected despite (Portland Public Schools) actions.”

Diss, the Benson High School teacher who had accused the school district of retaliating against him for his pro-life views, was formally dismissed by the school board Dec. 16 by a 6-1 vote. Board member Steve Buel was the lone dissenter, saying he did not agree with the process that led to Diss’s firing.

In a two-hour public hearing in November, Diss and his attorney contended that his religious beliefs and his strong visibility in the pro-life movement — including organizing protests of Planned Parenthood entirely away from his work —were factors in the school district’s efforts to oust him. A devout Catholic, Diss led efforts made by concerned Christians against construction of Planned Parenthood’s Northeast Portland headquarters, which nevertheless opened three years ago. He also strongly objected when district officials told him he must allow Planned Parenthood’s sex education program in his classroom.

School officials claimed his firing was pursued solely because of unprofessional and disrespectful behavior on his part toward both his supervisors and students.

The firing has garnered national attention; Diss was interviewed live on Fox News Channel on Dec. 20 and his story also has been widely told on numerous pro-life blogs and web sites.

One of Diss’s defenders, Gayle Atteberry, executive director of Oregon Right to Life, attended the November hearing and wrote afterward in a web commentary that “the Portland School District’s hostility to Mr. Diss’ worldview resulted in the deliberate misrepresentation of his teaching practices and classroom behavior.”

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