Home October 2014 Fired Benson High teacher sues district for $390,000

Fired Benson High teacher sues district for $390,000

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PORTLAND — Bill Diss has a generally quiet demeanor, but the Christian community in this part of the Northwest knows him to be a fighter when it comes to saving lives from abortion.

But now Diss has made clear he is pursuing another fight — but a related one — for what he considers just compensation for his firing from his teaching job at a Portland high school.

Believing that his opposition to Planned Parenthood led the Portland schools to wrongfully fire him, Diss, of Beaverton,filed a $390,000 lawsuit Sept. 17 aginst the school district. He seeks $90,000 in economic damages for lost wages and benefits and $300,000 for emotional distress.

The lawsuit was filed by attorney Rebekah Millard of the Life Legal Defense Foundation in Springfield.

In response, district spokeswoman Christine Miles told The Oregonian that the district believes the allegations Diss makes in the lawsuit are unmerited.

Diss, who had taught at Benson High School, was formally dismissed by the school board last Dec. 16 by a 6-1 vote; the firing drew national attention. 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 the previous month, 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 had led efforts made by concerned Christians against construction of Planned Parenthood’s northeast Portland headquarters, which nevertheless opened four years ago. He also strongly objected when the school told him he must allow Planned Parenthood’s sex education program in his classroom.

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

At the school board’s public hearing, the board room was filled with people who supported Diss, described him as an excellent teacher, and said the district’s actions toward him were unjustified.

The 38-page lawsuit states that Diss lost his job despite for years having received high ratings on job performance reviews.