A Mansfield, Texas independent school district elementary school art teacher has been suspended with pay since September, allegedly for discussing her sexual orientation with students, according to district officials.
Stacy Bailey has been an art teacher at Charlotte Anderson Elementary since 2008. She’s twice won teacher of the year — even as recently as last May. While the suspension occurred last year, there’s been a recent backlash as students and parents have expressed their support for Bailey and sadness regarding her absence, Buzzfeed reports.
One parent even told Buzzfeed, “She’s not forming a gay club in an elementary school; she’s trying to teach kindergartners about Vincent van Gogh … I don’t think she has time to make them all gay, nor does she have an interest in doing so.”
According to a report by the Dallas Morning News, Bailey’s suspension came just one month after she’d emailed the school district requesting that it review its nondiscrimination policies in regard to LGBTQ rights. In a press release from this past Tuesday, school district officials insist that is not the reason for her suspension, stating:
… concerns regarding Ms. Bailey are not about her request to have our nondiscrimination policies reviewed and/or revised with regard to LGBTQ rights. Mansfield ISD welcomes that discussion … Rather, the District’s concern is that Ms. Bailey 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.
In a statement to the Dallas Morning News, Bailey’s lawyer, Giana Ortiz, denied that her client ever spoke about her sexuality in front of her students, and added that multiple parents did not complain. She explained:
For Stacy, this entire ordeal began when she spoke with the students about her family which, for Stacy, included her wife … 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 … The fact is that she was placed on leave after years of exemplary work based on a single parent complaint.
Interestingly — and as noted by Ortiz in the same statement — the school district’s open discussion of Bailey’s private life seems to violate its own legal obligations of fidelity.
As of today, a petition to implement LGBT protections for MISD students and staff has 3,055 signatures (out of a 1,000 signature goal). One comment, by poster Danielle Newby, reads: “All 3 of my kids go to MISD! For this teacher to be put on leave is insane to me! She has a right to speak of her spouse! If it were a husband nothing of this sort would be brought up! It’s ridiculous and I am backing this teacher 100%.”