Dallas-area art teacher Stacy Bailey has been suspended after she discussed her sexual orientation with students, Mansfield Independent School District officials said Tuesday afternoon. Bailey, who has been suspended without pay since September, was named "Teacher of The Year" in 2016.
The district contests original reports that the teacher was put on administrative leave after asking officials to consider adding LGBT-inclusive language to her district's anti-discrimination policies. In an email statement, MISD officials claim it is their "general rule not to comment on employee personnel matters" but the national outrage "has created disruption to the Charlotte Anderson Elementary School educational environment."
The school suspended Bailey because she "insists that it is her right and that it is age appropriate for her to have ongoing discussions with elementary-aged students about her own sexual orientation, the sexual orientation of artists, and their relationships with other gay artists."
The district feels that "parents have the right to control the conversation with their children, especially as it relates to religion, politics, sex/sexual orientation, etc." Administrators contend they met with Bailey more than once after they claim they received complaints from parents. "Ms. Bailey refused to follow administration's directions regarding age-appropriate conversation with students," school officials said in a statement.
Bailey's lawyers say the school is lying -- that she merely mentioned her family, which includes her wife, to her students and that the school received one complaint, not numerous.
Bailey also believes her suspension is partly due to her advocating for non-discrimintation policies at the school. The September 8 letter which notified her she was placed on administrative leave without pay did not give a reason for the suspension, but it came a day after Bailey asked two counselors at Ben Barber Innovation Academy via email if that school had a gay/straight alliance group. Bailey was trying to connect to its organizers after asking district officials on August 25 about establishing a similar group.
Bailey has declined to comment, but her attorney, Giana Ortiz, asserts the school was trying to force her client back into the closet. "For Stacy, this entire ordeal began when she spoke with the students about her family which, for Stacy, included her wife," she expressed in an email statement to The Dallas Morning News.
Ortiz claims that these meetings never happened, writing "The District appears to speak for Stacy when it states that she 'insists it is her right and that it is age appropriate' to discuss matters including ongoing discussions about her own sexuality. This is absolutely false. Further, she never received directives to change her behavior - and never refused to follow any directive."
Ortiz also criticized the district's violation of Bailey's privacy by releasing the details of her suspension to the public. She was "shocked by the school district's decision to speak openly about a personnel matter - Stacy's administrative leave - in spite of its legal obligations of confidentiality. The District's actions violate Stacy's rights under the U.S. Constitution."
\u201cVideo of those who came to tonight\u2019s Mansfield ISD board meeting in support of art teacher Stacy Bailey. About 8 ppl spoke to spoke to board\u201d
Text messages obtained by The News between MISD officials from a month before Bailey's suspension show how administrators were concerned that Bailey had told her students "she had a girl friend," and that there was an email from a parent sent to the Superintendent.
Nearly three dozen people showed up in support of Bailey at Tuesday night's school board meeting. Around eight residents pleaded with the board to include LGBT-inclusive language in the school's anti-discrimination policies and answer for Bailey's suspension.
Even Kain Hendrix, a third-grader at Charlotte Anderson, testified to the board he was sad Bailey is no longer his art teacher and that her suspension was unfair to the school's families and students, not just Bailey reports Dallas News.
Jennifer Kureska, a parent who also works at the school as a receptionist also spoke on Bailey's behalf. "I have seen Ms. Bailey teach and even read some of her lessons before, and never have I seen anything inappropriate," Kureska said. "My daughters learned about Ms. Bailey's family. They saw photos of them during her introduction. They learned about various artists. Not once did they ever say the conversation made them wonder about a gay lifestyle."
Be sure to follow Advocate on your favorite social platform
DON'T MISS THE OUT100 SPECIAL 3 DAY MARATHON STARTING NOVEMBER 24TH!
Journey through the year’s influential Out100 – the most iconic and long-standing celebration of LGBTQ+ icons and allies – in a 1-hour television special spotlighting the LGBTQ+ people shaping the world today.