Two weeks before a popular Mansfield schoolteacher was placed on administrative leave with pay, an unidentified parent sent an email to school administrators and voiced his concerns about the teacher's sexual orientation.
The case surrounding art teacher Stacy Bailey has drawn attention as her supporters have asked school leaders why she is no longer teaching at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School, a Mansfield district school that's located in Arlington.
Bailey was placed on leave Sept. 8 after she made inquiries about establishing stronger protections for LGBT students and employees.
But 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.
Petty is asked whether Bailey has been open with students about her sexual orientation.
Petty replies: "Not to this extent. She has said she had a girlfriend and she showed a slide show of her friends that included a girlfriend."
In a response, another school district employee said: "Call [Associate Superintendent] Kim Cantu for guidance. I will let Dr. V know we are working thru HR on how best to handle the parent's concern, employee's rights, & appropriate administrative action."
Petty replied: "I emailed dad back and said I would look into his concerns asap. The school board and dr v were on the email back to him."
Bailey's supporters want district leaders to establish stronger protections for LGBT students and employees and have started an online petition that had almost 1,000 signatures Tuesday afternoon.
The school district said Tuesday that Bailey was placed on leave because of complaints from parents about her discussing her sexual orientation with students.
"The District's concern is that Ms. Bailey insists that it is her right and that it is age appropriate for her to have ongoing discussion with elementary-aged students about her own sexual orientation, the sexual orientation of artists, and their relationships with other gay artists," the district said in a statement.
The district said after complaints were received, administrators met with Bailey on more than one occasion. The issue is parents' rights pertaining to topics of religion, politics and sex/sexual orientation.
Bailey "refused to follow administration's directions regarding age-appropriate conversations with students," the district said.
Bailey's attorney, Jason Smith, disputed the school district's account.
"On one occasion, she discussed with students her spouse, who happens to be a woman, just as any other teacher would do," Smith said. "It's sad that Mansfield ISD issued a statement with multiple falsehoods to try and deflect the increasing parent pressure to bring back Miss Bailey."
Bailey was placed on administrative leave after she asked the school district to add protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to school district policy, according to documents provided to the Star-Telegram.
The petition that is circulating, called "LGBT Protections for MISD Employees and Students," had about 1,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
"Currently, Mansfield ISD does not protect their LGBT employees and students under their non-discrimination policy," states the petition. "If you agree that LGBT employees and students deserve to be treated as equals and to be protected under the policy please sign."
Six of Bailey's supporters brought the topic to the Mansfield school board during a meeting Tuesday night. The item was not on the agenda, and no action was taken.
'She has no voice'
Florence Bruner, a parent of Anderson students, was among supporters of Bailey who urged the school board last month to bring their "beloved teacher" back.
"As a parent, we ask a lot out of our children and our teachers, but there are two things we hope for the most — one is a teacher whose love of the subject inspires students, and the other is a teacher who cares deeply for our children. Stacy Bailey is without question both of these," said Bruner, who was planning to attend Tuesday's meeting.
Bruner's fourth-grade daughter has taken art classes with Bailey since kindergarten. Bailey also has a reputation of going beyond coloring and taking students through art history.
“It’s about the teacher and who she is as a person,” Bruner said, explaining that her supporters see her as a strong art teacher.
“You are talking to kids who sound like they have art majors,” Bruner said, adding: “We don’t know what the school board is going to do. We want an answer. We just want an answer. She is dearly missed and loved by the children.”
Bruner said Bailey also helped children who were failing and struggling.
“She has gone above and beyond. We are just heartbroken right now," Bruner said. "We are speaking up for her because she has no voice."
District doesn't condone 'discrimination'
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."
The district released its second statement on Tuesday afternoon, after documents regarding the case were released via public information requests.
Bailey wants 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."
The Mansfield school district said the issue is not about Bailey's inquiry into nondiscrimination policies but is about parental rights.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.