Successful professional teachers understand human nature. They also understand that in their daily interactions with students, there are boundaries they should not cross, yet the Internet is full of examples of teachers—more and more female teachers—that cross those boundaries, particularly those having to do with sex. I’ll get to the point of this article in a moment, but first, a baseline.
I do not text or call students. I do not have a single phone number for my students or their parents in my smart phone directory. In fact, I have scrupulously avoided being involved in extracurricular activities that might reasonably require me to make such calls. I do not touch my students—ever. No playful grab-assing, no boyish pushing or shoulder punching, absolutely no hugging, nothing that could be in any way misconstrued, or in any way warped into something inappropriate. I am very careful where I allow my eyes to rest, particularly with young ladies–these days cleavage abounds–and I very rarely give compliments of any kind. When I do, they are of the “you look nice today,” or “that’s a great shirt” kind.
I do not speak to them of my private life. If a student tells me they saw Mrs. Manor and me on a bike ride, I might confirm that and use it to encourage exercise involving more than the thumbs, but beyond that, I say as little as possible. I absolutely, never, ever, in a million years, discuss anything even remotely having to do with my sex life, and not because it is of the watching paint dry variety. To do otherwise is unprofessional, juvenile and plainly stupid, a plea to be fired, as The New York Daily News reports:
A Texas teacher who was suspended after showing her students a picture of her then-fiancée is suing the school district for discrimination.
Stacy Bailey, a former art teacher at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School in Arlington, alleges in the suit filed Tuesday that the Mansfield Independent School District and two employees discriminated against her because she’s gay. Bailey was fighting to have her job back after her suspension in September.
As always, gentle readers, keep in mind I’m relying on media accounts for this article, and what I’m delivering to you in quotes is what I’ve been able to find in those accounts. Full disclosure: The Mansfield ISD is not far from where I teach. I don’t know Bailey, nor do I know anything of consequence about that school district and the Charlotte Anderson Elementary School other than that all three exist. I do, however, know that there are no fewer gay people in Texas, and in education there, than elsewhere, and in my experience, teachers, and Texans in general, could care less about the sexual preference of fellow Texans who happen to be gay, unless they are forced to care.
A parent complained to the principal in August 2017 that Bailey was promoting a ‘homosexual agenda’ and was talking about her ‘future wife,’ the suit says.
The complaint names MISD Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas and Kimberly Cantu, the associate superintendent of human resources.
Cantu met with Bailey on Aug. 25 and told her, ‘You can’t promote your lifestyle in the classroom.’
‘We plan to get married. When I have a wife, I should be able to say this is my wife without fear of harassment,’ Bailey replied.
We do not know, beyond that, precisely what was said in that meeting. Anyone teaching in Texas understands Texas is a red state, and people tend to be traditionally family oriented. With that in mind, any rational teacher should understand the implications of the nature of the community in which they teach. Common sense, which is all too uncommon these days, informs us that some things are best kept to oneself.
She then emailed the school district requesting a policy change to protect LGBT employees. The parent complained again in September before Bailey was placed on leave, according to the suit. [skip]
Last Tuesday, Vaszauskas informed Bailey she was being transferred to a high school instead of returning to the elementary school.
Bailey has not been fired, in fact, her leave was with pay, in essence giving her an extended, paid vacation. There is no evidence I could find that Baily was materially harmed, though she is apparently upset that she was not able to discuss her sexual choices with her students. Her elementary school students. Bailey has, however, apparently chosen to portray the issue as a case of anti-gay discrimination:
Mansfield ISD reassigned Bailey to teach in a secondary school, sending the message that it believed LGBT teachers were not acceptable to teach elementary students,” a statement on Bailey’s behalf says.
The school district maintains Bailey discussed ‘her sexual orientation with elementary-aged students” and “refused to follow administration’s directions regarding age-appropriate conversations with students.
The statement said Bailey was not suspended over her request to include LGBTQ language in the district’s nondiscrimination policy, but rather due to the district’s concern that Bailey ‘insists that it is her right and that it is age appropriate for her to have ongoing discussions with elementary-aged students about her own sexual orientation, the sexual orientation of artists, and their relationships with other gay artists.
This suggests Bailey went far beyond merely informing her charges she was going to soon have a wife.
In the statement the district contended that ‘parents have the right to control the conversation with their children, especially as it relates to religion, politics, sex/sexual orientation, etc.
The statement later says that MISD administrators met with Bailey more than once after receiving complaints from parents but that ‘Ms. Bailey refused to follow administration’s directions regarding age-appropriate conversation with students.
Bailey has obviously retained counsel:
For Stacy, this entire ordeal began when she spoke with the students about her family which, for Stacy, included her wife,’ the statement said. ‘The District appears to speak for Stacy when it states that she ‘insists it is her right and that it is age appropriate’ to discuss matters including ongoing discussions about her own sexuality. This is absolutely false. Further, she never received directives to change her behavior–and never refused to follow any directive.
Ortiz emphasizes the complaint against Bailey came from a single parent, as though that is significant. If Bailey breached appropriate boundaries, it matters not that there was a single, or a thousand, complaints. This is particularly disingenuous:
Ortiz said that she was also ‘shocked by the school district’s decision to speak openly about a personnel matter — Stacy’s administrative leave — in spite of its legal obligations of confidentiality. The District’s actions violate Stacy’s rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Meanwhile, nearly three dozen people, including Bailey’s wife, father and sister, showed up in support of Bailey at Tuesday night’s meeting. About eight of those spoke to the board asking them to either include LGBTQ-inclusive language in the district’s anti-discrimination policy or for answers regarding Bailey’s departure.
On one hand Bailey’s attorney is shocked, shocked, the district would defend itself against Bailey’s charge of anti-gay discrimination, while her supporters and wife demand public answers about the “personnel matter.” The Dallas Newsarticle quotes several students and others in support of Bailey. It also quotes from several e-mails that are not obviously dispositive in this case, but by all means, take the link if so moved.
In this case, it’s not possible to know precisely what Bailey said and did, and how often. What is known is suggestive that she did go too far, and on more than one occasion, but again, I just don’t have the necessary information to come to that conclusion. One might think Bailey’s defense—claiming anti-gay discrimination—might be suggestive of an unwillingness to address the substance of the allegations, but again, there’s just not enough information to know that.
What is clear is no teacher should be discussing the details of their lives with their students, particularly not details of their sexual preferences. And if, indeed, Bailey has been bringing up the sexual preferences of artists, that’s just another indication that she is more determined to positively represent her lifestyle choices than to effectively teach art. And remember, gentle readers, we’re talking about elementary school children in this case.
One might consider this a case of whether Ms. Bailey is an art teacher who happens to be gay, or a gay art teacher. A teacher who happens to be gay would not feel the need to insert the gay lifestyle into her teaching. A gay art teacher very well might.
There is one additional issue. All wise teachers pay close attention to the sociopolitical climate of their school districts, schools, and communities. In Texas, gay teachers might safely indoctrinate pre-teen kids on their sexual preferences in Austin or Houston, but such instruction pretty much anywhere else is, for the rational teacher, not a smart move.
But you’re suggesting gay teachers don’t have the same rights as straight teachers! Not at all. Both groups have the absolute right not to talk about such things, particularly with elementary students. The judgment and professional fitness of teachers that talk about their sexual preferences, particularly with elementary students, if that is indeed what Bailey did, can reasonably be called into question. Talking about sexual preferences that the reasonable person must know will particularly anger parents is sour icing on a spoiled cake.
Bailey has been transferred to a high school and if she chooses, will continue to teach in her discipline, so it appears the worst that will happen to her is being told to not again do whatever the school district believes she did, and having to set up a new classroom. I understand that an elementary teacher may not wish to teach high school students, but in terms of harms, Bailey is not exactly being unreasonably abused.
The point remains: there are just some things teachers shouldn’t do, and Bailey may have failed to internalize that understanding, and decided to use her sexual orientation as a shield rather than as an unremarked upon facet of her personal life.