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A Texas teacher who was placed on administrative leave in 2017 after showing her students a picture of her soon-to-be-wife has been awarded $100,000 as part of a settlement reached with the Mansfield Independent School District.
Stacy Bailey, the former art teacher at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School in Arlington, Texas, was placed on leave in September 2017 after a parent complained, accusing Bailey of “promoting the homosexual agenda” after she allegedly showed students a picture her then-girlfriend, Julie Vazquez, during a “Get to Know Your Teacher” presentation.
Mansfield ISD said at the time that Bailey — a two-time winner of Teacher of the Year honor at Charlotte Anderson — had failed to follow guidelines for age-appropriate conversations with her students.
It also accused her of violating guidelines requiring that any “controversial subject” be taught in “an impartial an objective manner,” with the understanding that teachers are not allowed to “use the classroom to transmit personal beliefs regarding political or sectarian issues,” reports NBC News.
The district placed her on leave, and, a month later, demanded her resignation, which Bailey refused to give.
Additionally, The Dallas Morning News previously reported that, prior to her suspension, Bailey had sent emails inquiring about whether the district would adopt LGBTQ-friendly nondiscrimination policies, and asking counselors at another school asking if they had a Gay-Straight Alliance or any other means of support for LGBTQ students.
Bailey eventually sued the district, alleging that she has been discriminated against because of her sexual orientation. She was later transferred to nearby Lake Ridge High School, where she is currently employed.
Because Texas lacks a law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, Bailey sued in the federal courts.
After two years, Judge Sam Lindsay, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, ruled in October 2019 that the district had violated Bailey’s constitutional rights, prompting lawyers for both Bailey and the district to enter settlement talks.
As part of the settlement, Mansfield ISD agreed not only to pay Bailey $100,000, but to provide mandatory training to human resources and counseling staff on LGBTQ issues in schools, and to require the Mansfield ISD board of trustees to vote on whether to add protections for sexual orientation into its employment and harassment policies, reports the Texas Tribune.
The district also agreed to remove the eight-month-long “administrative leave” designation from Bailey’s employment record and provide her with a letter of recommendation.
At a Tuesday press conference in Fort Worth, Bailey thanked Mansfield ISD President Karen Marcuccu for showing leadership by agreeing to adopt more LGBTQ-inclusive policy changes, rather than simply a monetary settlement.
Mansfield ISD continues to deny any wrongdoing and insists that Bailey was not placed on leave for showing family pictures, according to a statement from Donald Williams, the district’s associate superintendent of communications and marketing.
“All parties deny any wrongdoing or liability, but wish to resolve their disputes to avoid the time, expense, stress and other impacts of continuing litigation, which would interfere with the mission of educating the students of MISD,” the statement reads.
The vote by the board of trustees to add LGBTQ protections to the district’s policies has been delayed while the board awaits a U.S. Supreme Court decision about whether LGBTQ discrimination violates prohibitions on sex discrimination within Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Jason Smith, one of Bailey’s attorneys, told the Tribune.
Smith says he doubts the Supreme Court will decide that discrimination based on sexual orientation counts as a form of sex discrimination, and said that the school district “could just pass the sexual orientation policy and make sure that everyone’s protected.”
Bailey and Vazquez have announced that they will donate $10,000 to “a nonprofit addressing LGBTQ student issues.” Smith, meanwhile, will donate $10,000 to the Human Rights Campaign.
“What happened to me is most gay teachers’ worst nightmare,” Bailey said at her Tuesday press conference. “Why aren’t straight teachers afraid to talk about their families? Why do they feel comfortable to have a picture of their family on their desk without questioning their safety?”
She says she hopes that her case will give school districts pause before they seek to punish other openly LGBTQ teachers.
“If you are a school district who thinks you can bully and shame a gay teacher out of their job, I hope you remember my name,” she said, “and I hope you think twice.”
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