A lesbian teacher sued a Texas school district, alleging discrimination. The district suspended her earlier this year after a parent’s complaint accused her of discussing her sexual orientation with elementary school students.
Stacy Bailey, 31, filed a lawsuit in Dallas federal court Tuesday against Mansfield Independent School District Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas and Associate Superintendent Kimberly Cantu. The teacher accuses them of violating her rights under the equal protection laws in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Equal Rights Amendment.
Bailey taught art at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School for 10 years. The district voted her Teacher of the Year twice. According to the lawsuit, she has been “open about who she was at work but never used sexual or mature terms with students.”
The complaint alleged that during a “First Day of School” power point presentation on August 23, 2017, Bailey shared photos of her life “in an effort to engage the students” using a classroom technique “widely used by other teachers.” The slideshow included images of herself as a child, her parents, best friends, and “future wife” Julie Vasquez. The presentation also included slides pertaining to class rules, rewards, and student expectations.
Later that week, Bailey was “informed by that principal that a parent complained to the school board and superintendent,” accusing the teacher of promoting the “homosexual agenda” by discussing her “future wife,” according to the lawsuit. Allegedly, the principal stated: “I don’t think you did anything wrong but I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Bailey also met with Cantu who told her: “You can’t promote your lifestyle in the classroom.” Bailey replied: “We plan to get married. When I have a wife, I should be able to say this is my wife without fear of harassment,” according to the suit. “When I state that, it is a fact about my life, not a political statement.”
Cantu responded, “Well right now it kind of is (a political statement).”
The complaint stated that Bailey asked about changing policy to prevent this from happening again. Cantu replied: “You are right. It is time to get the ball rolling on that. You need to realize this is Mansfield and there could be some pushback.” Cantu told Bailey she did nothing wrong. In turn, Bailey emailed the school board inquiring they “enact policy expressly prohibiting discrimination against lesbians and gays.”
However, on September 8, Cantu “took Plaintiff out of her class for a meeting,” according to the court documents. Bailey learned the same parent filed another complaint. It alleged the teacher showed “sexually inappropriate images to children,” which Bailey denied.
Cantu allegedly asked Bailey to sign a document saying the school district would place her on administrative leave with pay. According to the lawsuit, Bailey responded: “This is discrimination. This is wrong and it might even be illegal.” She refused to sign. Then, on October 30, the complaint alleged the school district asked for Bailey’s resignation. She refused to resign.
In an April 4 handwritten letter, Bailey wrote to Vaszaukas asking to be reinstated at Charlotte Anderson Elementary, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “The families there have been very supportive,” she wrote, in part. “I enjoy working with my colleges there. I have done nothing improper. If the district were to transfer me to another school, it would leave my career with a stigma I could not escape.”
On April 24, the school district renewed Bailey’s contract for the 2018-19 school year, but, on May 1, Bailey learned Mansfield ISD reassigned her to an unidentified secondary school.
The lawsuit alleged that in placing Bailey on administrative leave, the school district “damaged Plaintiff’s career and imposing a stigma on Plaintiff, making it more difficult to obtain future employment in other school districts, especially as an elementary school teacher.” It requested a jury trial with the goal of reinstating Bailey at the elementary school. Bailey also seeks “a declaration” that she was discriminated against because of her sexual orientation.
After filing the suit, Bailey’s attorney Jason C.N. Smith told reporters: “Stacy is filing this lawsuit and taking this action in the hopes of pushing Mansfield out of the shadows of discrimination and into the sunshine of equal rights.”
Vasquez, now married to Bailey, told NBCDFW: “She was singled out just because her spouse happens to be a woman.”
Mansfield ISD responded to the lawsuit by “categorically” denying the allegations: “Once facts are fully known and parties deposed, we are confident this lawsuit will not warrant merit.” District officials said during Bailey’s 10-year teaching tenure there “has never been an issue with her open sexual preferences until this year.” They claimed “her actions in the classroom changed, which prompted students to voice concerns to their parents.”
The school district stated: “The issue at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School is whether Mrs. Bailey has followed District guidelines requiring that controversial subjects be taught in ‘an impartial and objective manner.’ Teachers shall not use the classroom to transmit personal belief regarding political or sectarian issues.”
Mansfield ISD asserted the school district “is and has been an inclusive, supportive environment for LGBT staff for decades.”
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