Embattled gay teacher is back in a Mansfield classroom, but her fight’s not over yet

Stacy Bailey, who was on administrative leave most of the last school year, is working at Mansfield’s Lake Ridge High School.
Stacy Bailey, who was on administrative leave most of the last school year, is working at Mansfield’s Lake Ridge High School.

Embattled art teacher Stacy Bailey is starting a new academic year at Mansfield’s Lake Ridge High School — almost a year after she was placed on administrative leave following complaints from parents about her sexual orientation.

Bailey, who filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Mansfield schools earlier this year, has reported for work at Lake Ridge on Monday. Mansfield’s school year begins on Aug. 15.

Bailey’s attorney, Jason Smith, said Bailey will be dealing with a much larger number of students at Lake Ridge than she did as an elementary school teacher.

“Stacy’s new position comes with a much greater workload and learning curve given her only experience has been with elementary school students,” Smith said.

Switching to a larger classroom size was intended to frustrate Bailey and encourage her to resign, Smith said.

The school district stated that it had concluded its internal investigation and that she reported for work this week along with all the other teachers in the district. She’ll be teaching art in grades 9 through 12.

Her attorney insists the district’s investigation was largely for show.

“I guess our response is, ‘what investigation,’” Smith said. “They really didn’t conduct an investigation during the entire eight months out of the classroom.”

Bailey’s case drew national attention as her supporters asked Mansfield school district leaders why she was no longer teaching at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School, a Mansfield district school that’s located in Arlington. She was on paid administrative leave most of last year. The federal lawsuit is pending.

In April, the school district voted to renew Bailey’s contract even as the district investigated complaints from some parents that she was indoctrinating children with a pro-gay agenda. Bailey’s allies, including dozens of families and her wife, Julie Vasquez, called it discrimination and asked the school board to reinstate her at the elementary school.

Bailey’s allies attended several meetings to support her, and parents and students displayed artwork done in her class in a show of solidarity with the teacher.

“She is a role model teacher and one that I look up to,” Kristen Hendrix, a teacher at Charlotte Anderson, told the school board last spring.

The meetings also drew many critics who praised the school board for putting Bailey on leave.

Bailey’s allies also said she was singled out after using a common technique among teachers when they are getting to know their students. On the first day of school, Bailey showed students pictures of her parents, her fiancee and best friends. But instead of building school community, her personal story created controversy because her fiancee was a woman.

Bailey shared a photo of herself and Vasquez, who was her financee at the time, dressed in costumes of the popular Disney fish characters Nemo and Dory.

After a parent complained, the district put Bailey on administrative leave and she was unable to teach at the elementary school. Records show she was placed on leave on Sept. 8, 2017.

Records obtained by the Star-Telegram through an open records request indicate that administrators raised the parent’s complaint with Bailey who in turn asked about her rights. The notes allude to at least three other parents who shared concerns.

Bailey was told to “be mindful of what you say.” She was also reminded that she works in a conservative community. She cried during the meeting, the notes state.

At issue for a parent was a slide show and lecture about two artists who were gay. The lesson drew an “eew” from a fourth-grade student. The notes also indicate that Bailey teaches this aspect of the artists’ background in fourth grade, but not third grade. It is included in the lesson to show how art is influenced by life.

The administrative notes also state that Bailey tried to explain to the student that saying “eew” is not respectful.

In September, parents who complained were asked to answer a series of questions related to Bailey and her exchanges with the children about being gay. One parent stated: “She said the artists are gay. A student said ‘eew.’ The teacher said don’t say that is eew. I am gay and that hurts my feelings if you say eew,” the parent said, adding: “I am afraid the girls love the teacher so much that someday they will want to do that. Kids do what the teachers do because they respect them.”

Last spring, the school district offered to let Bailey teach at a secondary school, her attorney Jason Smith told the Star-Telegram in May. At the time, Smith said that not allowing Bailey back at Charlotte Anderson left her stigmatized. He added that it is difficult to be hired by other districts after being placed on administrative leave.

Bailey graduated with a degree in art education from Howard Payne University in 2008, according to professional information on file with the school district. She is certified to teach art in grades pre-kindergarten through 12. She was hired by the school district in August 2008 at a salary of $44,000. By the 2013-2014 school year, records show she earned $52,423.78 a year, including a $1,000 stipend.

This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @ fwhanna
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