- 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)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.