Mansfield ISD “Teacher of the Year” Stacy Bailey was put on administrative leave for eight months after sharing a photo of herself with her partner Julie Vazquez and referring to Vazquez as her “future wife.”
It has reached a $100,000 settlement with her school district, her attorney announced Tuesday.
Under the settlement, the district also agreed to provide mandatory training on L.G.B.T.Q. issues for its human resources and counseling staff members and to consider adopting a formal policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The district will also expunge Ms. Bailey’s suspension from her record and provide her with a letter of recommendation for potential future employers.
“If you are a school district that thinks you can bully a gay teacher out of their job, I hope you remember my name and I hope you think twice,” said Bailey during a press conference on Tuesday.
Bailey, who twice won Teacher of the Year awards at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School in Arlington, filed a discrimination lawsuit against MISD in 2018.
The 33-year-old teacher was suspended in September 2017 after the district “received complaints from parents about Ms. Bailey discussing her sexual orientation with elementary-aged students,” according to a press release from the school district. Angry parents of the students in her class asserted that this was an inappropriate personal detail to share with her class.
They called her comments “not age-appropriate for her students” and accused her of trying to push a “homosexual agenda”. Understandably, Bailey was shocked when the school administration sided with the angry parents and placed her on an eight-month administrative leave.
She certainly hadn’t felt that she was sharing too much personal information with her students.
Speaking on Tuesday, Bailey said the parent’s complaint was without merit.
“When a straight teacher happily announces that she and her husband are expecting a baby to her elementary class, is she saying something inappropriate to very young and impressionable students? Is she announcing her sexual orientation? Is she presenting her life in a way that promotes her political beliefs?” asked Bailey. “Of course not. She’s simply sharing facts about her life.”
After all, plenty of straight teachers have photos of themselves with their families in their classrooms. They talk about their spouses, kids, and pets, and no one bats an eye.
Could this be a case where the LGBTQ community is once again seen as inherently sexualized? Did the parents already not like this highly awarded and recognized educator for other reasons and use this as an excuse? Whatever the reason for the administration’s actions, the result was the same: a blatant infringement on Bailey’s rights. As if teachers didn’t have enough to deal with, now they can’t even talk about their families freely.
Years ago, I might’ve just rolled my eyes at all of this and sighed “Oh, Texas,” but let’s be real– that does not give Texas the credit it is due and it is a perfect cop-out for the school administration. Luckily, Bailey didn’t just roll her eyes and say “Oh, Texas.” She felt strongly enough about her unfair treatment that she took it to the courts. And. She. Won.
It has reached a settlement with the school district, ending a nearly three-year battle.
Of course, winning a court case doesn’t take away the hurt, But it very likely softens the blow. Especially because not only did Bailey win the monetary damages she asked for. But she also got the school district to agree to add training related to LGBTQ+ issues and to consider creating protections for its other LGBTQIA+ teachers to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.
That’s not a promise, but it is a start! I’m proud of Bailey for standing up for herself even when that was a difficult and harrowing journey. I can only hope that the school district does, in fact, learn from this and treat others better in the future.
“The judge’s ruling is clear: that gay teachers are protected by the constitution,” Mr. Smith said on Wednesday.
Mr. Smith said he planned to donate $10,000 of his legal fee to the Human Rights Campaign, which consulted with him on the case. Ms. Bailey said she planned to donate $10,000 from the settlement to an organization that supports L.G.B.T.Q. students.
“I think it’s important for teachers like me to be able to be themselves in their workplaces without fear,” she said, particularly teachers in rural or suburban districts. “Feeling safe in your workplace should not be dependent on where you live.”
Do you know anyone who stands up for themself in a way that inspires you? Are you that person that stands up in the face of discrimination? Tell us all about it in the comment box.