A Texas elementary school art teacher was suspended after at least one parent complained that she mentioned her sexual orientation to students, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The art teacher, Stacy Bailey, was placed on leave in September. Earlier this month, Dallas Morning News reported that parents and teachers were intent on finding out why the popular art teacher wasn’t in her classroom. Forty parents and students attended a board meeting to support Bailey and get answers. Parents said they only knew rumors about why the teacher left and that their requests for answers were ignored.
“She is the most loved teacher,” Trisha Savage told board members, according to Dallas Morning News. “Other teachers will tell you that she’s one of the best teachers… She teaches art history to elementary school kids, and they are more knowledgeable than a lot of adults.”
Bailey reportedly asked the district about building stronger protections for LGBTQ students and school employees before she was placed on leave. The Star-Telegram obtained text messages that showed the principal said a parent mentioned Bailey’s sexual orientation to the school board and the superintendent.
On Tuesday, the school district said that she was placed on leave because parents complained about her mentioning her sexual orientation and refusing “to follow administration’s directions regarding age-appropriate conversations with students.” The district added that, “parents have the right to control the conversation with their children, especially as it relates to religion, politics, sex/sexual orientation, etc.”
But the teacher’s attorney, Giana Ortiz, describes the teacher’s discussion of sexual orientation as simply mentioning her wife when she spoke to students about her family. Ortiz said that Bailey never received “directives to change her behavior” and did not refuse directives.
“The fact is that she was placed on leave after years of exemplary work based on a single parent complaint,” Ortiz said in a statement emailed to the Dallas Morning News.
Bailey’s supporters are advocating for greater protections for LGBTQ teachers and students. Her supporters are circulating a petition to advocate for including LGBTQ students and teachers in the school’s nondiscrimination policy. As of Thursday morning, the petition had nearly 2,000 signatures.
There have been many controversies over whether queer teachers can disclose their sexual orientation or whether teachers of any sexuality can simply acknowledge the existence of people in the LGBTQ community. In February, a first-grade teacher at a Miami Catholic school, Jocelyn Morffi, was fired after marrying her partner. A parent told the Miami Herald that the school didn’t let her get things out of her classroom and that “They treated her like a criminal.”
Last year, a New York teacher was suspended after parents complained about handouts that mentioned sexuality and gender for students between the ages of 12 and 16. These handouts had a glossary of LGBTQ terms such as “ally,” “gender expression,” “gender identity,” and “coming out.” Students in the LGBTQ community are often excluded from health and sexuality education, which is something comprehensive sex education advocates are trying to change. As states have taken steps to try to include more inclusive and age-appropriate discussions of gender and sexuality in education, they have encountered resistance from conservatives, who insist on calling it “sex ed for kindergartners.”
Omar Currie, a teacher at Efland Cheeks Elementary School in North Carolina, resigned in 2015 after parent outcry over his reading a book to his class that featured a king falling in love with another man at a ball. Currie told ThinkProgress he resigned because he felt he didn’t have the support of the administration, which said the book felt under the category of “controversial topics” that require parental notice.
The lack of exposure to discussions about LGBTQ health or LGBTQ representation in stories extends to LGBTQ history. History teachers, advocates, and academics say that very few students are exposed to the history of the struggle for LGBTQ rights beyond Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the country, and the Stonewall riots.
Eight percent of all high school students in the United States, or 1.3 million students, say they are lesbian, gay, or bisexual.