- In September 2017, a gay arts teacher at a Texas elementary school was placed on administrative leave after showing students a photo of her fiancé in an introductory slideshow to her class.
- That teacher, Stacy Bailey, then sued the school district in federal court on the basis of discrimination against her sexual orientation. Currently, Texas law does not provide for protections against sexual orientation.
- On Monday, Bailey and the school district reached a settlement, with the district agreeing to pay her $100,000, part of which Bailey said she will donate to a non-profit that addresses LGBTQ student issues.
- The district also agreed to train staff on LGBTQ+ issues and hold a vote as to whether it will update its policies to include protections for LGBTQ+ staff, students, and families.
Gay Teacher Settles With School District
Embattled arts teacher Stacey Bailey reached a settlement agreement with her Texas school district after it suspended her for showing a photo of her fiancé in class.
The problem? Bailey is gay, and her then-fiancé was a woman.
The settlement comes almost two years after Bailey first challenged the Mansfield Independent School District in federal court. As part of Monday’s settlement, Mansfield ISD agreed to pay Bailey and her lawyers $100,000.
It will now provide mandatory training to human resources and counseling staff on LGBTQ issues in its schools. It will also require the Mansfield ISD board of trustees to hold a vote on whether or not to add protections for LGBTQ individuals in its policies, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it will pass those protections.
As part of the settlement, Mansfield ISD did not have to admit any wrongdoing.
For their part, Bailey and her now-wife said they will donate $10,000 of that settlement to a non-profit that addresses LGBTQ student issues.
Teacher Suspended for Showing Photo of Her Fiancé
The situation involving Bailey and Mansfield ISD began in August 2017 when Bailey showed a photo of her fiancé in an introductory slideshow to her class. By September, Bailey had been placed on paid, administrative leave following several complaints from parents.
According to the school district, however, misinformation regarding the reason behind Bailey’s suspension was rampant. During that time, some believed she had been suspended because she had also reportedly approached the district and asked it to include protections for LGBTQ employees in August.
In March, nearly three dozen people backing Bailey showed up to a public board meeting where some of them directly addressed the board and challenged it to either provide protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in the district’s anti-discrimination policy or to provide answers surrounding Bailey’s suspension.
Bailey had worked at the elementary school since 2008 and had twice been awarded “Teacher of the Year.”
As far as an answer, that same night, Mansfield ISD released a statement regarding Bailey’s suspension.
While Mansfield ISD said it generally doesn’t comment on employee personnel matters, it also noted that Bailey’s suspension was full of “misinformation” and had caused “disruption” to the elementary school. Thus, it decided to “clarify information about this situation.”
“Parents have the right to control the conversation with their children, especially as it relates to religion, politics, sex/sexual orientation, etc.,” the statement begins.
“The District’s concerns regarding Ms. Bailey are not about her request to have our nondiscrimination policies reviewed and/or revised with regard to LGBTQ rights,” it continues. “Mansfield ISD welcomes that discussion through the District’s established policy review committee. Rather, 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 discussions with elementary-aged students about her own sexual orientation, the sexual orientation of artists, and their relationships with other gay artists.”
Mansfield ISD also said it had received multiple complaints from parents and had met with Bailey more than once, noting that administration gave Bailey “directions regarding age-appropriate conversations with students” but that Bailey refused to follow those directions.
In response, Bailey’s lawyer released a statement labeling Mansfield ISD as false, saying Bailey “never received directives to change her behavior–and never refused to follow any directive.”
Bailey’s lawyer then accused Mansfield ISD of trying to “silence the families and staff” who had worked to get Bailey reinstated.
“The fact is that she was placed on leave after years of exemplary work based on a SINGLE parent complaint,” she added, contradicting Mansfield ISD’s claim that multiple parents had complained.
Bailey Relocated to a High School
In May 2018, Mansfield ISD reinstated Bailey’s contract; however, the school district then reassigned Bailey to a local high school.
Following her relocation, a spokesperson for Bailey accused the school district of trying to keep LGBTQ teachers from teaching elementary students. Mansfield ISD then pushed back, saying, “there has never been an issue with her open sexual preference until this year.”
“That’s when her actions in the classroom changed, which prompted her students to voice concerns to their parents,” it said in a statement.
“Teachers shall not use the classroom to transmit personal belief regarding political or sectarian issues,” it added.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Bailey said he had been nervous to start teaching at a high school because many people had already heard about the story from local news coverage. Because of that, she said she worried about how her students would react.
To her surprise, on her first day, about 15 LGBTQ students reportedly came to her classroom, flooded it with baskets and candy, introduced themselves, and welcomed her.
“I don’t think they’d ever seen a teacher out loud say they were gay,” Bailey told BuzzFeed News. “To see a grown-up who was successful and educated and not afraid? I don’t think they had ever seen that before.”
Bailey Sues Mansfield ISD
Also in May 2018, Bailey sued Mansfield ISD in federal court.
Bailey did not sue in Texas court because Texas does not have any laws barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; however, the federal government does.
In her lawsuit, Bailey accused the school district and two employees of refusing “to return her to her previous position in an elementary school. She also claimed they “transferred her to a secondary school and determined she was not appropriate to teach elementary students all because of her sexual orientation and status as a lesbian.”
That lawsuit also stated that while Bailey had been open about her sexuality, she had never used sexual or mature terms with her students.
It also seemed to clarify some of the inconsistencies between Mansfield ISD and Bailey’s lawyer. Regarding the issue of whether or not multiple parents had complained, the lawsuit alleged that one parent had complained twice before enlisting three other parents to also complain.
After that first complaint, Bailey claimed Kimberley Cantu, the district’s associate superintendent of human resources, allegedly told her that she couldn’t “promote your lifestyle in the classroom.”
“We plan to get married,” Bailey reportedly responded. “When I have a wife, I should be able to say this is my wife without fear of harassment. When I state that, it is a fact about my life, not a political statement.”
Cantu allegedly replied, “Well right now, it kind of is [a political statement].”
Following that incident, Bailey approached the district about enacting protections for LGBTQ staff.
That parent then complained again in September, with the parent claiming Bailey had shown “sexually inappropriate” photos in class. Bailey denied that claim but said she was suspended anyway.
In October 2017, Bailey claimed Mansfield ISD asked for her resignation, but she refused.
What is Bailey’s Life Like Now?
In 2018, Bailey married her fiancé.
Currently, Bailey still works at the high school where she was relocated because she said she promised her students she would wait until they graduated to leave.
“If you are a school district who thinks you can bully and shame a gay teacher out of their job, I hope you remember my name, and I hope you think twice,” she said Tuesday.
See what others are saying: (Texas Tribune) (CBS Dallas-Fortworth) (The Dallas Morning News)
Miami Man Gets 6 Years in Prison After Using COVID Relief Funds To Buy Lamborghini
- A Florida man was sentenced to more than six years in prison after fraudulently obtaining $3.9 million in COVID-19 relief funds and using that money for personal purchases.
- Authorities said David Tyler Hines falsified federal applications to secure loans from the Paycheck Protection Program loans, which were meant to help small businesses struggling during the pandemic.
- After receiving the funds, Hines began blowing it on jewelry, resort stays, dating websites, and even a $318,000 Lamborghini Huracan.
Hines Defrauds Government
A man in Miami, Florida, has been sentenced to more than six years in prison this week for fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in coronavirus relief funds and using that money for personal expenses.
David Tyler Hines, 29, is accused of falsifying federal applications to secure $3.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans, which were meant to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic.
The Justice Department claims he actually requested $13.5 million in paycheck protection loans for various companies using false and fraudulent IRS forms last year. At the time, he stated the money would ensure his employees would continue to get paid throughout the state-mandated lockdowns.
According to a federal complaint, however, those employees either never existed or earned only a fraction of what he claimed to pay them.
“Collectively, Hines falsely claimed his companies paid millions of dollars in payroll the first quarter of 2020. State and bank records, however, show little to no payroll expense during this period,” the complaint adds.
Hines Makes Luxury Purchases With Funds
Authorities said that within days of securing the nearly $4 million from the federal government, Hines began blowing it on extravagant personal purchases, including jewelry, resort stays, and a $318,000 2020 Lamborghini Huracan. Two payments totaling $30,000 were also documented as going to “mom,” according to the criminal complaint, while some money also went to dating websites.
Investigators became aware of the scam after the Lamborgini was involved in a hit-and-run incident back in July. The vehicle was ultimately linked back to Hines, which kick-started the investigation.
In February, Hines pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with the scheme. As part of the sentencing, he was ordered to forfeit the $3.4 million, as well as the Lamborghini
See what others are saying: (Orlando Sentinel) (Complex) (HuffPost)
Trial for 3 Ex-Officers Charged in George Floyd Murder Pushed To March
- A Minnesota judge ruled Thursday that the August trial for three officers charged with aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd will be postponed until March 2022 so a recently filed federal case can proceed first.
- Ex-officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao were indicted on federal civil rights charges shortly after Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter by a state jury last month.
- In Thursday’s announcement, the judge also argued the postponement was necessary to create “some distance from all the press that has occurred and is going to occur this summer” regarding Chavuin’s case and upcoming sentencing.
- No date has been scheduled for the federal trial yet, and experts have said it is unclear if it will happen before March 7, the new date set for the state case.
Judge Cahill Postpones Trial
The trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged for their involvement in the murder of George Floyd will be pushed from August to March 2022, a judge ruled Thursday.
Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao were previously facing state charges of aiding and abetting manslaughter and murder, but last week, they were indicted on additional federal civil rights charges.
The federal indictment charges Kueng and Thao with willfully failing to intervene in unreasonable use of force deployed by their fellow former colleague Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder and manslaughter last month for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes.
All four ex-officers face charges for failing to provide medical care to Floyd, “thereby acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm to Floyd,” according to the indictment.
In his decision, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said he moved the Minnesota trial so the federal case could proceed first. Notably, Cahill also cited his desire to create more distance between the state trial and the widely publicized legal proceedings against Chauvin.
“What this trial needs is some distance from all the press that has occurred and is going to occur this summer,” he said in court on Thursday.
A date for the federal trial has not yet been scheduled, it is uncertain if it would happen before March 7, the new date set by Cahill for the state trial.
The decision to file the civil rights charges against Lane, Kueng, and Thao came as surprise to many legal experts as federal indictments are not usually brought until after state cases are concluded.
The move is also unusual because Chauvin had already been convicted of murder in Minnesota. By contrast, the federal government normally only files charges in cases where they believe justice was not served at the state level.
For example, the four officers who were accused of beating Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991 were only indicted on federal charges after they were acquitted in California.
Uncertainty Around Sentencing
Defense attorneys for Kueng, Lane, and Thao agreed with the judge’s decision, but state prosecutors did not support the delay, a fact that experts said could mean the three former officers are seeking a plea deal.
“One can infer that the defense attorneys are hoping that the federal case will offer lower penalties for their clients and a dismissal of the state charges,” Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor told the Associated Press.
Under Minnesota law, aiding and abetting is treated the same as the underlying crime. If the ex-officers are convicted, the state’s sentencing guidelines for people without previous criminal histories would recommend prison sentences of 12 and a half years for the murder counts and four years for the manslaughter counts.
Cahill, however, has the flexibility to increase the sentences if he finds aggravating factors, as he did with Chauvin in a ruling Wednesday.
In the decision, Cahill agreed with prosecutors that Chauvin abused his power, acted “particularly cruel” to Floyd, and committed the crime in front of children with at least three other people.
Experts say the judge is likely to give Chauvin a 30-year sentence for the second-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum of 40 years.
See what others are saying: (The Associated Press) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Ohio Will Give 5 People $1 Million for Getting Vaccinated
- Ohio is launching a lottery program that will give five people ages 18 or older $1 million each if they receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Five vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old will win full four-year scholarships to one of the state’s public universities under a similar giveaway program.
- Some have criticized the move as a waste and misuse of federal coronavirus relief funds, but others applauded it as a strong effort to boost slumping vaccination rates.
- Gov. Mike DeWine (R) addressed critics on Twitter, writing, “The real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
Ohio Announces Vaccine Lottery
Several states and cities across the country have been rolling out different incentives to help boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. Some are offering $100 savings bonds, $50 prepaid cards, and even free alcohol, but Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine took it a step further Wednesday, saying that five people in his state will each win $1 million for getting vaccinated.
DeWine said that the lottery program, named “Ohio Vax-a-Million,” will be open to residents 18 and older who receive at least one dose. Drawings start May 26 and winners will be pulled from the state’s voter registration database.
The Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings, but the money will come from existing federal coronavirus relief funds.
Younger people will also have a chance to win something. That’s because DeWine said five vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old will be eligible to win a full four-year scholarship to one of the state’s public universities under a similar lottery program. The portal to sign up for that opens May 18.
DeWine Defends Lottery
Reactions to the giveaway have been mixed. Some echoed statements from State Rep. Emilia Sykes, the top House Democrat, who said, “Using millions of dollars in relief funds in a drawing is a grave misuse of money that could be going to respond to this ongoing crisis.”
DeWine, however, seems to have anticipated pushback like this.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,'” he tweeted. “But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
Despite some backlash, a ton of other people have applauded the plan as a smart way to encourage vaccinations across all age groups. So far, about 36%of Ohio’s population has been fully vaccinated — compared with 35% nationally.
Still, the number of people seeking vaccines has dropped in recent weeks, with an average of about 16,500 starting the process last week, which is down from figures above 80,000 in April.