After five years of positive reviews by administrators, Diss’ relationship with school officials began to deteriorate in 2007, when he protested the proposed opening of a Planned Parenthood headquarters in Portland. Although the protests happened on his own time, away from school grounds, administrators confronted him after seeing him on television speaking out against the pro-abortion group.
“As the attention mounted, [Diss] was summoned for questioning by Benson High School administrators,” the lawsuit reads. “He was interrogated about his activities by the principal and by an attorney for the District. The activities in question occurred on his own time, not at school, nonetheless he was specifically instructed not to mention the fact that he was a teacher or where he worked when making public statements.”
Five years later, things took a turn for the worse when school officials tried to force Diss to allow Planned Parenthood to make a presentation to his class. In late 2012, presenters with the Teen Outreach Program (TOP) – a teen pregnancy prevention program run by Planned Parenthood and funded by a federal government grant – showed up at Diss’ classroom unannounced to give a recruitment pitch to students. No one had told Diss they were coming, so he followed district policy and requested identification.
When the presenters identified themselves as employees of Planned Parenthood, Diss was surprised and upset. At first, he refused them access, but Principal Carol Campbell demanded they be let in, and told him that the organization would be visiting his classroom throughout the year. Diss, a Roman Catholic, felt that he could not in good conscience participate in these presentations, during which students would discuss their sexual activities and methods of contraception. He asked to be excused, but Campbell denied his request and told him he had to stay and “facilitate [Planned Parenthood’s] interactions with students,” according to the suit.
“Because (Diss) expressed his opposition to the activities of Planned Parenthood at Benson High School, he became a target of” the administration, the suit reads. “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.” He was ordered to stop drilling deficient students on their multiplication tables and factors, calling it “repetitive,” and one administrator demanded he stop using the words “God Bless” in all of his communications with staff, students and parents.
He was later accused of “unprofessional, intimidating and/or harassing behavior” by school officials over comments students said he made in opposition to Planned Parenthood, including his assertion that “they kill over a million babies every three years.” It was this allegation that district officials would ultimately use to justify his firing.
Was he harassed?