The Mansfield school district is teaching an important civics lesson to its students: Cowardice has no place in administration. Fourth grade art teacher Stacy Bailey learned the hard way that advocating for LGBT protections has repercussions. In early September, she was suspended with pay at Charlotte Anderson Elementary and has been awaiting a decision ever since.
Fort Worth schools adopted its current LGBT anti-discrimination policy in 2011, an acknowledgement that LGBT students faced higher rates of bullying, harassment, and suicide than their hetero peers. According to private emails recently published by the Dallas Morning News, the Mansfield teacher requested similar protections in that district after a handful of parents took offense to Bailey’s mentioning her female spouse during a class presentation.
Instead, she was placed on paid leave. For seven months. And counting.
The school district and Bailey’s current lawyer, Jason Smith, issued contradictory statements on what was discussed in the class. Smith told news media that Bailey discussed her gay marriage on “one occasion.” The school district said Bailey had an “ongoing discussion with elementary-aged students about her own sexual orientation.”
Mansfield school board members have skirted the issue by avoiding public comment.
A parent we spoke to worries that the art teacher may be fired outright. Rebecca Cavitt first heard about the teacher’s absence from her daughter last fall.
Her daughter was “very close” to Bailey, Cavitt said. “We started asking questions. A few teachers said they didn’t know because [Bailey] was not allowed to talk.”
Several parents have spoken at Mansfield school district board meetings, lambasting the school district for what they say is the ongoing mistreatment of a popular and respected teacher.
“A lot of people feel like she has been treated unfairly,” Cavitt said. “It doesn’t make any sense to anybody.”
Last week, Cavitt’s daughter came home in tears: A rumor had spread that Bailey had been fired. While untrue, the false alarm highlighted the fact that emotions still run high over the ordeal.
We reached out to the Mansfield school district for comment but did not hear back in time for publication. Previously, the school district had released a public statement describing its current policy as forbidding discrimination or harassment based on “race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disability, or any other basis prohibited by law.” In other words, the statement continued, the Mansfield school district does not condone harassment or discrimination of any kind toward anyone.
Steven Poole, executive director of the United Educators Association, which represents 23,000 Texas school employees, said that if the Mansfield school district had fired Bailey, the teacher would have had access to due process, such as a board review.
“Right now, [the school district] is trying to figure out what they want to do with her,” he said. “It is unusual for someone to be on leave this long and no position made. I don’t know what the district is thinking.”
Mansfield school administrators should put Bailey back to work and tell those complaining parents that the world’s inhabitants are not one-dimensional druids. Or else administrators should prove that Bailey had broken a school policy, fire her, and allow her to move elsewhere and/or sue for workplace discrimination. Sometimes it takes a lawsuit to push scaredy cats into the 21st century.