Teachers in Texas may be able to teach their students about the 1st Amendment, but they had better not expect to exercise their own rights to free speech if the example of one educator in the Lone Star State is any example.
According to The Dallas Morning News, Stacy Bailey, an art teacher at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School in Mansfield, Texas, petitioned the Mansfield Independent School District school board last August “to ‘begin a conversation’ about including ‘sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression'” in the language of the district’s anti-discrimination policy, according to documents obtained by the newspaper.
Bailey says she was instructed to contact the board after expressing her concerns about the policy to Associate Superintendent Kimberley Cantu and the human resources department. In her email to the board, she mentioned that the Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio school districts had already included LGBTQ protections in their anti-discrimination policies.
“I think it is important that MISD starts movement towards progress now,” Bailey said in her email. “We have many LGBTQ teachers, students, and families in this district. We deserve the right to feel protected by our district.”
The very day after sending her email to the school board, Bailey, a former teacher of the year at her school, was told that she would be placed on paid administrative leave and that the board would be conducting “an investigation.”
Bailey was told not to contact any students, parents, or staff while on leave and was not given any reason for her suspension, but the timing and her previously exemplary record as a teacher point to her activism in asking the board to formally protect LGBTQ rights as the motivation for the suspension.
The MISD school board confirmed that it had placed the teacher on paid leave, but refused to comment on any other details about her suspension.
They issued a statement saying that the district’s policy “prohibits discrimination, including harassment, against any employee on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disability or any other basis prohibited by law. In other words, Mansfield ISD does not condone harassment or discrimination of any kind toward anyone.”
Yet, the district’s penalization of Bailey for simply starting a dialogue about discrimination against LGBTQ employees of MISD prove the very point that Bailey was trying to make about the need for protection.
Parents and students at the Charlotte Anderson Elementary School rallied behind their now absent teacher when they learned of her suspension. Around 40 people attended a school board meeting to demonstrate their support for Bailey.
“She brings diversity to this classroom that is lacking in so many schools and in so many districts today,” parent Rebecca Cavitt told the board that night. “She accepts my child for who she is and she loves her for it. I’m perplexed how this person who everyone seems to adore can be kept from our children.”
It seems that, despite the MISD school board’s protestations to the contrary, discrimination, and homophobia, are alive and well in at least one Texas town.