Stacy Bailey, left, and her wife, Julie Vasquez, at a press conference to announce Bailey’s lawsuit against Mansfield ISD earlier this year. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
Mansfield teacher starts new school year at a new campus as Mansfield ISD files motion to dismiss her discrimination lawsuit
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
Stacy Bailey is starting the new school year as an art teacher at a Mansfield secondary school. While the school district has rehired her and assigned her to a classroom, district officials have also filed a motion in court to dismiss Bailey’s discrimination lawsuit against the district.
The former teacher of the year spent most of the 2017-2018 school year on paid administrative leave after doing what every teacher in the district does — introduce herself to her students on the first day of school, showing them photos of herself and her family. For the previous decade, Bailey taught art to kindergarten through fourth graders at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School in Arlington, which is in Mansfield ISD.
What made Bailey’s introduction different was she showed pictures of her wife. One student mentioned it to her mother who filed a complaint, claiming that the art teacher was “pushing a gay agenda.”
The school district says parents complained about her statements to the children, not her sexual orientation. The district defended itself by claiming it has many gay employees and doesn’t discriminate, but when Bailey requested the school district add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to its non-discrimination policy, the district refused.
In April, Bailey’s contract with MISD was renewed, but she was reassigned to a secondary school. In May, she filed a lawsuit against the district claiming discrimination based on her sexual orientation.
Jason Smith, Bailey’s attorney, spoke on her behalf. He said MISD filed the motion to dismiss Bailey’s lawsuit on Friday, Aug. 10. As long as the judge decides not to dismiss the case, it moves to discovery and a trial date will be set, probably for late 2019.
Discovery will demonstrate Bailey isn’t the only lesbian teacher in the district sent the message to keep her identity quiet. Other gay and lesbian teachers in Mansfield have had similar experiences, Smith said.
“The fact that MISD in their motion to dismiss tries to assert the constitution doesn’t protect gays and lesbians provides insight into why they treated Stacy the way they did,” Smith said. “Since 2003, the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled you can’t discriminate.”
The 2003 case Smith was referring to was Lawrence v. Texas, which invalidated sodomy laws across the country and made same-sex relationships legal and free from prosecution.
Smith said the district’s refusal to add sexual orientation and gender identity/gender expression to its nondiscrimination policy is “so telling.”
While claiming the school district doesn’t discriminate against LGBT faculty and staff, in its motion to dismiss, it devotes two pages to declaring that “sexual orientation is not a protected class.” The school district also asserts in its motion that Bailey has “suffered no adverse employment action,” and therefore can’t file a claim against the district.
Bailey’s lawsuit said the fact that she was removed from the classroom for a school year and then reassigned from the elementary school she loved to a secondary school, although she has no experience teaching older students, proves the discrimination.
Bailey’s suit says the district through its actions sends the discriminatory message that if LGBT teacher happen to be hired, they can’t teacher elementary school. And if a teacher legally marries a same-sex partner, that teacher can’t mention their marriage the way teachers in opposite-sex relationships do, and that LGBT employees of the district would be better remaining in the closet.
Smith said Bailey always used age-appropriate language in the classroom. She called her spouse her wife, just as others teaching the same grade would say.
Meanwhile, he said, Bailey is happy to be back in the classroom.
“She loves teaching and opening kids’ eyes to art,” Smith said. “But she’s heartbroken she was moved from the school she loved.”
Smith said Bailey is “one of my favorite clients I’ve ever represented.” As an example of the kind of person she is, he said that while she was on forced leave, she spent her time playing music for patients in hospice.
Smith said Bailey is thankful for all the support she’s gotten from students, parents and other teachers. But, he added, “She wishes higher-ups were as supportive.”