Text messages show complaint from parent led to Stacy Bailey being placed on leave.
By John Wright
ATexas school district placed an openly gay art teacher on paid leave last year after a parent complained about her sexual orientation.
Stacy Bailey, a beloved art teacher at Charlotte Anderson Elementary in Mansfield, near Fort Worth, has been suspended with pay since September.
Earlier this month, the Dallas Morning News reported that Bailey had been placed on leave after she inquired about adding LGBTQ language to the Mansfield Independent School District’s nondiscrimination policy.
However, in response to public information requests, officials on Tuesday released text messages between the school’s principal and a district employee indicating Bailey was suspended in response to a complaint from a parent. After releasing the text messages, the district quickly issued a statement alleging that 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.”
The district’s statement also said that “parents have the right to control the conversation with their children, especially as it relates to religion, politics, sex/sexual orientation, etc.,” and that “Ms. Bailey refused to follow administration’s directions regarding age-appropriate conversation with students.”
Bailey’s attorney, Giana Ortiz, called the district’s statement “absolutely false.”
“For Stacy, this entire ordeal began when she spoke with the students about her family which, for Stacy, included her wife,” Ortiz said in a statement to the Morning News. “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 accused the district of trying to “silence the families and staff at Charlotte Anderson” who have tried to get the district to reinstate Bailey. “The fact is that she was placed on leave after years of exemplary work based on a single parent complaint.”
Nearly three dozen of Bailey’s supporters, including her wife, showed up at Tuesday’s school board meeting to call for her reinstatement.
Third-grader Kain Hendrix, 9, told the school board: “Ms. Bailey was my teacher, my role model and someone who always cheered me up. Every time I go to art it is not the same.”
Florence Bruner, a parent of Anderson students, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Bailey is “dearly missed and loved by the children.”
“As a parent, we ask a lot out of our children and our teachers, but there are two things we hope for the most — one is a teacher whose love of the subject inspires students, and the other is a teacher who cares deeply for our children. Stacy Bailey is without question both of these,” Bruner said, adding that Bailey helped children who were failing and struggling. “She has gone above and beyond. We are just heartbroken right now. We are speaking up for her because she has no voice.”
Bailey’s supporters have also launched a petition, called “LGBT Protections for MISD Employees and Students,” that had more than 1,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
Texas has no statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in schools. However, federal courts have held that the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ public-sector employees.