Public School Fires Substitute Teacher for Raising Concerns Over Book Depicting Same-Sex Couples

Lindsey Barr was fired from her substitute teaching position after raising concerns about the content of a book in the school library.

Barr is a mother of three sons. All of her children attend public school in Bryan County, Georgia, about 30 miles southwest of Savannah, where she also works as a substitute teacher.

In August, Barr learned that McAllister Elementary, where her first- and third-grade sons attend and where she sometimes works, planned to have the book “All Are Welcome” read during a “read-aloud” story time in the school library.

“I actually thought that the theme of the book was great, kindness, … including everyone,” Barr, 37, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Thursday, “but the images, the illustrations are contrary to what we believe for traditional marriages and families.”

The book’s colorful pictures include depictions of same-sex couples taking their children to school and two lesbian mothers, one of whom is pregnant.

Illustration by Suzanne Kaufman, from the book “All Are Welcome” by Alexandra Penfold.

“I want to be able to inspire [in my own children] which I think is biblically correct for marriage and family. And [the book] was against those beliefs,” said Barr, who previously worked as a full-time teacher in Bryan County public schools for a decade.

On August 16, Barr spoke to her 6-year-old son’s teacher and asked that he not be part of the story time where the book was to be read. The teacher said it wasn’t a problem.

Later that day, Barr emailed McAllister Elementary School Principal Heather Tucker and asked to speak with her. The two had a phone call the next day and Barr expressed her concerns about the photos in the book.

Barr says she explained to the principal that she and her husband would like to be the ones to have conversations with their children about issues such as same-sex marriage, rather than the school. The mother says she was clear that she did not ask that the book be removed from the school, only that her children not be exposed to the content.

The principal agreed that her sons did not have to participate in story time, Barr recalled.

The call ended and Barr said she felt like everything was “okay”.

Not long after the conversation, Barr said, she tried to log into the online portal the school uses for substitute teachers to pick up more work. She couldn’t do it. She emailed the principal asking if she had been removed as a substitute teacher, but did not hear back.

“The next thing I heard from the school was from the human resources director asking me to come in for a face-to-face meeting regarding my role as a substitute teacher,” Barr continued. The Daily Signal said.

On Aug. 23, Barr met with Principal Tucker and Debi McNeal, director of human resources for the school district.

“I’m going to start by just saying some of the comments that I’m going to say are difficult, they’re going to be difficult to hear, they’re difficult for me to say,” Tucker told Barr at the start of the meeting. , according to s transcription.

The principal went on to explain to Barr why she is no longer allowed to be a substitute teacher in the school district:

That’s how you accused McAllister last week [Elementary] of a propaganda campaign … with liberal extreme worldviews. This is inaccurate. It’s not something we do. However, every educator who walks into this building, regardless of personal views, must leave their prejudices at the door. It just has to be done. We must be prepared to support every child that enters this building.

Tucker said she was concerned about Barr’s bias “against same-sex couples,” according to the transcript.

“It’s very real that we could have a student who identifies as gay, or who has parents who identify as gay,” the principal said, “and I have concerns about how you’re going to be able to support that student because those prejudices are still enter the workplace.”

Barr responded that she brought her concerns to the principal as a mother, not as an employee of the school district.

“I did not share a prejudice with you. This is not a personal bias. I said, ‘As a Christian mother of children, young children, I don’t think we should force same-sex marriage on my children,'” Barr told Tucker.

The two told Barr that she would no longer be allowed to be a substitute teacher in the Bryan County School District.

Philip Sechler, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal aid organization, sent a letter Sept. 13 to Trey Robertson, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning at the Bryan County Board of Education.

In the letter Sechler demanded that the school system mrs. Barr “immediately reinstated so that she can return to work as a substitute teacher at McAllister. [Elementary]and that it refrains from any future retaliation against mrs. Barr for her protected speech.”

Sechler asked for a response from Robertson or the school district by 5 p.m. Sept. 16, explaining that if Barr is not reinstated, she “will be forced to pursue other legal options to vindicate her rights.”

Neither Robertson nor any other Bryan County school district official responded, Sechler said.

Lawyers with Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit Sept. 30 against McAllister Elementary School and Bryan County Schools in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Savannah Division.

The Daily Signal sought comment from Robertson, Tucker and Superintendent of Schools Paul Brooksher, but did not receive a response.

Parents should not be bullied and intimidated by public schools that do not want to hear their views,” Sechler told The Daily Signal. “Lindsey [Barr] expressed concern to protect her own children and they fired her … and that’s wrong.”

Barr said she was taking the stand to protect her constitutional right to free speech.

Public schools, she said, “can’t retaliate parents because they expressed genuine concern about their own children’s education.”

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