- 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)
Trump Classifies Gun Stores, Shooting Ranges, and Weapon Manufactures Essential Businesses
- The Trump Administration has ruled that gun shops are an essential business during coronavirus lockdowns.
- This comes after several states and cities, including California, did not list firearm retailers as essential. The NRA hit California with a lawsuit, saying this choice “suffocates your self-defense rights when you need them most.”
- Not everyone has agreed with this ruling though. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the communications and documents that led the federal government to make this decision.
- While this debate has been going on, gun retailers say they have seen a significant spike in gun and ammunition sales since fears about the coronavirus became widespread.
Trump Admin Rules Gun Shops Essential
The federal government has ruled gun stores an essential business during coronavirus lockdowns, prompting gun control organizations to fight back.
On Monday night, the Trump administration listed firearms stores, manufacturers, shooting ranges, and other related businesses as essential during the pandemic. Their decision comes after strong debates over what should happen to gun shops during shelter-in-place orders. After sheriffs in Los Angeles and other officials in California said that these stores should not be considered essential and should close, the National Rifle Association hit the state with a lawsuit.
“Municipalities who target lawful gun stores for closure aren’t promoting safety,” Jason Ouimet, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Actions said in a statement. “By weaponizing their politics to disarm you and your loved ones, these shameless partisans are recklessly promoting a gun-control agenda that suffocates your self-defense rights when you need them most.”
The Department of Homeland Security also recommended that gun shops remain open. After the new federal ruling came down, California said it will be opening up gun shops again. The NRA thanked President Donald Trump for his administration’s decision in a tweet.
Opposition to Gun Stores Remaining Open
This ruling has not come without dissent, however. Over the past few weeks, many lawmakers have suggested that gun shops should close during the lockdown.
“There’s no reason why gun stores should be given this exception,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in a statement. “In fact, arming more Americans in their homes at a time of rising tension and anxiety seems more dangerous than ever.”
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has also been vocal about their opposition to this. On Tuesday morning, they said they will be filing a Freedom of Information Act request so they could see the communications and documents that led the government to decide gun shops should be essential.
“Americans have a right to know whether the Trump Administration is listening to Dr. Anthony Fauci or (NRA Executive) Wayne LaPierre when pushing to keep gun businesses open despite the risk of spreading coronavirus,” the group’s president, Kris Brown said in a statement. “The American people deserve answers as to whether our federal government has put industry interests and profits ahead of our public safety.“
Gun Sales See Bump Amid Coronavirus
This ruling comes as gun sales are on the rise, something sellers are saying is a direct response to fears of the coronavirus. Online retailer Ammo.com said it has seen increased purchases and website traffic since the virus became a widespread concern.
“While people have stockpiled toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and pantry essentials, they’ve also purchased ammunition at an unprecedented rate,” Ammo.com said on its website. “Here at Ammo.com, our growth in sales directly correlates with the rise of COVID-19 and its spread across the country.”
The increases the business has seen are staggering. Ammo.com has reported a 777% increase in revenue, 516% increase in transactions, and 350% increase in site traffic. It has also seen significantly higher conversion rates and order values.
NPR spoke to a gun shop owner in Tulsa, Oklahoma who said gun sales at his store have gone up 20%, while ammunition sales roughly quintupled.
Fears About Gun Ownership Amid Lockdowns
Increased gun ownership during this time of uncertainty and vulnerability does not sit well with everyone though. Gun control advocates fear that having people trapped inside with their weapons could lead to more gun violence.
As many are stuck inside due to lockdowns, there are already reports that domestic violence cases are increasing. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, if a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, the risk of homicide goes up by 500%.
There are also fears that because so many people are panic buying, there are now new gun owners who may be unfamiliar with gun safety measures. Gun deaths significantly increase when proper safety care is not taken. Death by suicide is three times greater in homes with loaded firearms versus a home with an unloaded firearm, a statistic that is also troublesome because of the toll social isolation takes on depression and mental health.
The Brady Campaign has also stated that eight children and teens are injured or killed a day due to an unlocked or unsupervised gun in the home. While kids cannot go to school and are spending more time at home than usual, some worry that this could lead to them getting their hands on a firearm.
Because of this, Brown has been advocating for all gun owners, new and old, to make sure they are being responsible with their weapons.
“While it is understandable to seek what can feel like protection in times of upheaval, we must acknowledge the risks that bringing guns into the home pose and take all appropriate measures to mitigate that risk,” Brown stated.
“In this uncertain time, we urge all gun owners to ensure that their weapons are safely stored,” Brown continued. “Just like we can all do our part to slow the spread of this virus, we can do our part to help prevent unintentional shootings in the home.”
See what others are saying: (NPR) (Wall Street Journal) (Reuters)
Judges Block 3 States From Limiting Abortions During Pandemic
- Judges in Texas, Ohio, and Alabama lifted restrictions that were placed on abortion procedures as the coronavirus emergency continues.
- The states deemed that all nonessential medical procedures should be postponed as facilities handle the virus, and they either explicitly included abortions in this category or remained unclear.
- After abortion clinics and rights groups filed lawsuits, judges across all three states ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on Monday and temporarily blocked the abortion bans.
- The groups protesting the bans celebrated, while some state officials threatened to appeal.
Bans Put in Place
Federal judges in Texas, Ohio, and Alabama have blocked restrictions that were set on abortions after the states deemed the procedure nonessential during the coronavirus health crisis.
Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order to postpone all medical procedures that are not immediately necessary in an effort to free up hospital space and equipment for COVID-19 treatment.
A statement from the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, released the following day, specified that this included “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” Failure to comply with the order could have led to penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days in jail.
Similar mandates were issued by Ohio and Alabama officials earlier this month. Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost issued a letter to several clinics ordering them to temporarily stop providing abortions as well. In Alabama, an order was issued broadly limiting medical procedures during the outbreak. The Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office suggested abortion clinics could face prosecution under this order.
Hundreds of abortion appointments across these states were canceled following these bans, and legal action was swiftly taken.
The lawsuit in Texas was filed last week by Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, representing abortion providers in the state.
On Monday, abortion rights groups and providers — including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — filed lawsuits against officials in Ohio and Alabama to block coronavirus-related abortion bans.
Similar lawsuits were filed in Iowa and Oklahoma on Monday.
Abortion Bans Deemed Unconstitutional
Federal judges sided with the plaintiffs in the Texas, Ohio, and Alabama lawsuits on Monday when they lifted the temporary abortion restrictions in each state.
Texas came first, when District Court Judge Lee Yeakel granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the ban from affecting abortion clinics across the state.
“The attorney general’s interpretation of the Executive Order prevents Texas women from exercising what the Supreme Court has declared is their fundamental constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is viable,” Yeakel wrote.
Yeakel added he would “not speculate on whether the Supreme Court included a silent ‘except-in-a-national-emergency clause'” in its previous abortion rulings.
Yeakel’s order expires on April 13, when he has a hearing scheduled on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction.
Later Monday night, Texas Attorney General Paxton said his office would appeal the ruling “to ensure that medical professionals on the frontlines have the supplies and protective gear they desperately need.”
According to a press release Tuesday, Paxton followed through on his word and filed for “immediate appellate review” in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Also on Monday, in Ohio, District Court Judge Michael Barrett sided with abortion rights groups and issued a two-week temporary restraining order on the state’s ban.
Barrett wrote an abortion ban would cause “irreparable harm” that does not outweigh the state’s reasoning for the order.
In a statement, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said the Health Department’s order was to “save lives in light of the COVID-19 public health emergency” and he will be taking action to achieve that goal, “be it an emergency appeal, a trial on the preliminary injunction, a more specifically drawn order or other remedy.”
Then in Alabama, District Court Judge Myron Thompson ordered the suspension of the state’s ban on abortion until April 13.
“Because Alabama law imposes time limits on when women can obtain abortions, the March 27 order is likely to fully prevent some women from exercising their right to obtain an abortion,” Thompson wrote Monday.
“And for those women who, despite the mandatory postponement, are able to vindicate their right, the required delay may pose an undue burden that is not justified by the State’s purported rationales,” Thompson added.
Dr. Yashica Robinson, an Alabama OB/ob-gyn and plaintiff in the case, told CNN she was “thrilled” by the decision and criticized the state order as “an attempt to attack access to essential health care under the guise of pandemic response.”
Plaintiffs in the Ohio and Texas cases had similar joyous reactions.
Chrisse France, the executive director of one of the clinics that received a letter from Yost’s office, told CNN she was “relieved” by the ruling.
“Everyone deserves to have access to safe, timely care and a delay of only a few weeks can make abortion completely inaccessible,” France said.
“This ruling sends a message to other states: Using this pandemic to ban abortion access is unconstitutional,” Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement after the Texas ruling was announced.
Other states, including Kentucky and Mississippi, are also still considering abortions as nonessential procedures during the coronavirus crisis.
Trump Boasts About TV Ratings as Reporters Debate Airing Coronavirus Press Conferences
- President Trump received backlash online after boasting about the TV ratings from his coronavirus briefing.
- Many users criticized the president for his remarks while confirmed cases and deaths from the coronavirus continue to grow significantly in the U.S.
- The tweets also furthered a debate about whether or not Trump’s briefings should be broadcast live on media outlets, with critics arguing that he often uses the time to spread misinformation.
- Others argue that cutting Trump’s briefings amounts to censorship.
Trump Gets Backlash for Ratings Tweets
President Donald Trump stirred up another controversy on Sunday after boasting about the ratings from his daily coronavirus news briefings.
“Because the ‘Ratings’ of my News Conferences etc. are so high, ‘Bachelor finale, Monday Night Football type numbers’ according to the @nytimes, the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY,” the president tweeted.
A little while later, Trump tweeted several excerpts from the same New York Times article he referenced early.
Numerous people took to Twitter to criticize Trump for bragging about his ratings while so many Americans are dying.
“More Americans have died from coronavirus than during the attack on Pearl Harbor and Trump is talking about ratings?” Scott Dworkin, the host of the podcast the Dworkin report, wrote in a tweet.
“While bodies were being placed on the back of a refrigerated truck outside Brooklyn hospital, America’s President was boasting about his #coronavirus press conferences television ratings,” tweeted pastor, activist, and radio host Bishop Talbert Swan.
Prominent conservative commentators also chimed in, like Ben Shapiro, who appeared to condemn Trump’s remarks while also accusing others of doing the same.
Celebrities like John Legend and Chrissy Teigen also jumped in to slam Trump and his remarks.
What the Article Actually Says
Others, however, pointed out that the president had inaccurately quoted the Times article and taken it out of content.
There are several things to note here. First of all, the article, written by Michael Grynbaum, is titled, “Trump’s Briefings Are a Ratings Hit. Should Networks Cover Them Live?”
“The president’s viewership has rivaled the audiences for hit reality shows and prime-time football,” the tagline reads. “But some worry about misinformation.”
In the very first sentence, Grynbaum opens the article, writing, “President Trump is a ratings hit, and some journalists and public health experts say that could be a dangerous thing.”
But when you look at Trump’s tweet he only includes the very first sentence, then skips the next part and moves on to the excerpt about ratings.
“And the audience is expanding even as Mr. Trump has repeatedly delivered information that doctors and public health officials have called ill informed, misleading or downright wrong,” Grynbaum continues.
The article then goes on to say that while journalists have long debated how to report on Trump’s “fabrications,” the coronavirus pandemic has “raised the stakes.”
“Now, the president’s critics say, lives are at risk,” Grynbaum writes.
Debate on Airing Trump’s Briefings
Grynbaum’s article brings up an important and growing debate over whether or not Trump’s press briefings should even be aired.
For a while now, those in favor of the idea have argued that Trump has been using his daily press briefings to lie, downplay the coronavirus, and generally spread misinformation, and as a result, it is in the public interest to stop airing them.
This is a point that has been made by a number of prominent journalists in recent weeks.
“If he keeps lying like he has been everyday on stuff this important, we should— all of us should stop broadcasting it, honestly. It’s going to cost lives,” Rachel Maddow said on her show a few weeks ago.
That sentiment was also echoed by Maddow’s fellow MSNBC anchor, Joe Scarborough.
“There is no public benefit to this briefing,” the Morning Joe host tweeted. “The networks should all cut away.”
Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan also wrote an op-ed around the same time as Maddow’s remarks, arguing that the media should stop broadcasting Trump’s “dangerous, destructive coronavirus briefings.”
“More and more each day, President Trump is using his daily briefings as a substitute for the campaign rallies that have been forced into extinction by the spread of the novel coronavirus,” she wrote.
The idea seemed to gain momentum on Sunday following Trump’s controversial remarks about his ratings. More people began calling for networks to cut the briefings, and #BoycottTrumpPressConferences trended on Twitter.
Outlets Take Action
Some outlets have already taken action. Last week, the local NPR station in Seattle, KUOW, announced in a tweet that it would no longer be airing the president’s coronavirus press conferences.
The station explained that it would still cover the briefings, but that it would not broadcast them live “due to a pattern of false or misleading information provided that cannot be fact checked in real time.”
One day early, five of the six major networks stopped airing the briefing partway through.
According to the Associated Press, the networks ABC, CBS and NBC cut away after the first 20 minutes, while CNN and MSNBC held out a little longer, and only Fox stuck it out to the end.
White House spokesman Judd Deere criticized CNN and MSNBC in a tweet for cutting early, calling the move “disgraceful.”
A CNN reporter responded in another tweet, quoting a spokesperson who said: “If the White House wants to ask for time on the network, they should make an official request. Otherwise we will make our own editorial decisions.”
CBS also made a similar comment, but MSNBC took a much harder stance, with a representative telling reporters that they, “cut away because the information no longer appeared to be valuable to the important ongoing discussion around public health.”
However, on the other side, some have argued that cutting the press briefings amounts to censorship.