Mansfield News-Mirror

LGBT rights debate heats up Mansfield school board meeting. And the winner is ...

Supporters of art teacher Stacy Bailey want the Mansfield school district to explain why she is on administrative leave. They also want the district to add stronger anti-discrimination protections for LGBT students and employees.
Supporters of art teacher Stacy Bailey want the Mansfield school district to explain why she is on administrative leave. They also want the district to add stronger anti-discrimination protections for LGBT students and employees. Viking News Network

The saga of a suspended LGBT art teacher prompted supporters — including her wife — to push publicly for added anti-discrimination protections in Mansfield schools even as critics warn it's part of a “gay agenda.”

Art teacher Stacy Bailey’s case has drawn national attention as her supporters ask Mansfield school district leaders why she is no longer teaching at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School, a Mansfield district school that's located in Arlington. She has been on paid administrative leave most of the school year.

Dozens of speakers addressed the school board Tuesday night to either support Bailey or to ask trustees to stand their ground on the issue of parents' rights. The meeting was tense as speakers held the floor for about two hours.

About 11:15 p.m. Tuesday, the school voted to renew Bailey’s contract for the next school year. Her contract was among those presented for renewal on the consent agenda.

But she will remain on paid leave for now as her case is investigated.

Bailey’s supporters say she is an inspirational teacher who is greatly missed. Her wife, Julie Vazquez, was among supporters who addressed the school board.

Vazquez described how Bailey has spent 228 days on administrative leave even though she's been an outstanding educator.

“Is this what MISD does to its best and its brightest?” Vazquez asked. She said Bailey worries about her school family.

“She has not abandoned them,” she said. “All she wants is to be back at Charlotte Anderson teaching.”

'A role model teacher'

Bailey’s case was alluded to several times during the meeting, including an item about the policy review committee and the list of contracts up for renewal for the upcoming school year.

Advocates of LGBT rights asked the board to retool its anti-discrimination policy by adding several terms: “sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.” Allies wore purple and carried signs with the proposed terms.

“She is a role model teacher and one that I look up to,” said Kristen Hendrix, a teacher at Charlotte Anderson.

The meeting also drew critics who asked the school board to stand their ground against LGBTQ protections and Bailey’s suspension. They expressed concerns that Bailey was teaching an LGBTQ agenda and seeking protections for a select group of people.

Before the meeting, the Tarrant County Republican Party urged people to follow the issue at Mansfield schools: “Mansfield ISD (MISD) is being pressured to pass a policy that would infringe on religious liberty and allow boys into girls’ shower, locker-rooms and bathrooms.”

Pastor Tanika Dean, a parent in the district, said 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.

Pastor David Bradley said marriage between man and woman has been socially accepted since “the beginning of time.” He begged the board not to make a policy change.



No policy change until after election

Before the public comment portion of the meeting, school board President Raul Gonzalez read a prepared statement about the district’s stance on a policy review. More than 100 copies of the policy statement were handed out.

The statement explained how policy changes are recommended to the school board for a vote by a committee.

“Any review of MISD’s anti-discrimination policy would be handled through the normal processes of our policy review committee,” the statement reads. “Committee assignments will be made when our new board is in place after the May (5) election. Any recommendations from the policy review committee will be discussed in regularly scheduled board meetings.”

Bailey was placed on leave Sept. 8 after she made inquiries about establishing stronger protections for LGBT students and employees. 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. In a March 9 statement, the district said: "Mansfield ISD is committed to providing a safe working environment for all employees."

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."

Bailey’s allies want Mansfield to have an LGBT policy similar to the Fort Worth school district’s. Fort Worth, which grabbed the national spotlight with a transgender guidelines controversy in May 2016, has a local policy titled: "Employee Welfare Freedom from Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation."

Fort Worth schools prohibit discrimination against "any employee on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity and expression, military/veteran status, or any other basis prohibited by law."

This article includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

Diane A. Smith: 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1

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