DALLAS — Stacy Bailey, the Mansfield school district art teacher who was placed on paid administrative leave but then had her contract renewed, is suing the school district for sexual orientation discrimination.
Her attorney has sent out a media advisory announcing a 1:45 p.m. Tuesday news conference in Dallas after the lawsuit is filed in federal court.
Bailey, her wife, Julie Vasquez, and attorney Jason Smith will be at the news conference. But Bailey will not speak.
Her case has drawn national attention as her supporters ask Mansfield school district leaders why she is no longer teaching at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School in Arlington. She has been on paid administrative leave most of the school year.
She has twice been voted teacher of the year and received “exemplary reviews,” her attorney said in the media advisory.
Bailey’s contract was renewed on April 23, but the district sent a letter on May 1 informing her that she had been reassigned to a secondary school. Smith, her attorney, said the Mansfield school district is “sending the message that it believed LGBT teachers were not acceptable to teach elementary students.”
Her lawsuit will be filed under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. She will be seeking reassignment to Charlotte Anderson Elementary and “acknowledgment that what Mansfield ISD did was illegal and wrong and should never be done again.”
The Mansfield school district did not immediately respond to questions from the Star-Telegram.
Bailey’s case has drawn scrutiny as allies of the teacher and critics voiced their views before the Mansfield school board. Supporters want trustees to let Bailey teach, while critics of the teacher told the board to stand its ground on the issue of parents’ rights.
Last month, the school board voted to renew Bailey’s contract for the next school year. Her contract was among those presented for renewal on a consent agenda.
Bailey had been on paid leave while her case is investigated.
Bailey’s supporters say she is an inspirational teacher who is greatly missed. Her wife, Vasquez, was among supporters who addressed the school board.
A lack of LGBTQ protections
Advocates of LGBT rights asked the board to retool its anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policies by adding several terms: “sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.” Allies of LGBTQ teachers and students have worn purple to Mansfield school meetings and urged trustees to add language to protect them.
Rev. Katie Hayes, pastor of Galileo Christian Church in the Mansfield/Kennedale area, is among advocates for stronger protections through the Mansfield Equality Coalition.
“The situation with Ms. Bailey makes me sad, but it actually brought to light the lack of protections for LGBTQ persons in our district.”
The district’s local policy states: “The District prohibits discrimination, including harassment, against any employee on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disability, or any other basis prohibited by law.” The district further stated it doesn’t “condone harassment or discrimination of any kind toward anyone.”
In a March 9 statement, the district said: “Mansfield ISD is committed to providing a safe working environment for all employees.”
The school board told the public a recent meeting that it would review policies this summer after local elections.
Hays said they will hold the school board to their promise.
“It’s time because it is the right thing to do,” Hays said.
‘They handled this horribly’
Throughout the spring, Bailey’s supporters have asked school leaders to let her return to her students at Charlotte Anderson. Parents, students and co-workers describe a dedicated educator who inspires students. Allies have taken their children’s artwork to meetings.
Trisha Savage, a parent whose has attended several meetings, said she hoped the district would have resolved the issue.
“I’m disappointed in MISD,” she said. “They handled this horribly and now will be fighting a battle that could have been avoided. What would the harm have been to have reinstated her in her classroom at the school she loves who loves her?”
The meetings have also drawn people who support the district’s decision to put Bailey on leave. Many have accused her of pushing a “gay agenda.”
Pastor Tanika Dean, a parent in the district, told the school board last month that she worried about schools taking away the innocence of children.
“I stand with parents of MISD who are supporting the suspension of Stacy Bailey,” said Dean, who urged the school board to stick to educating children and refrain from adding protections for LGBTQ employees and students.
It all began with a “Get to Know Your Teacher” slide show in August, where a parent complained that Bailey was promoting a “homosexual agenda,” her attorney said in the media advisory.
“In response to this increasing pressure, the school district issued a public statement regarding Bailey that included multiple falsehoods,” the media advisory said.
After Bailey made inquiries about establishing stronger protections for LGBT students and employees, she was placed on paid administrative leave on Sept. 8. She has also been accused of trying to indoctrinate youngsters.
In a series of Aug. 23 text messages obtained by the Star-Telegram, Anderson principal Sheira Petty said a parent had raised questions about Bailey’s sexual orientation to Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas and the school board.
The district has said that it cannot discuss the details of the case.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
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