Lindsey Barr was a substitute teacher in Bryan County Schools, Georgia, where her children attend McAllister Elementary. When she found the school librarian planned to read the picture book All Are Welcome to students – including her own children – Barr was concerned and expressed her thoughts to the principal.
For this, she was fired.
After Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney’s filed a lawsuit against the school and district, the school agreed to a settlement with Barr. ADF announced:
Officials at McAllister Elementary and Bryan County Schools have agreed to reinstate her, pay $181,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees, and publicly expressed regret after violating her constitutionally protected freedoms.
The book describes a day in the life of school children, from the morning bell through learning, lunch and recess, to the end of the school day, along with an emphasis on diversity and with the repeated refrain, “All are welcome here.”
The book also depicts several same-sex couples with their children, and, according to ADF Senior Counsel Philp A. Sechler:
Lindsey spoke out as a Christian, a mother, and a private citizen on an important issue – namely, the content and age-appropriateness of a picture book that the school planned to read to her kids and other elementary-aged children that conflicted with her family’s values and faith.
Yet school officials immediately retaliated against her for expressing those views and fired her from a job at which she excelled.
In the lawsuit, ADF alleged that school and district officials violated her right to free speech and free exercise of religion. The complaint also said they had engaged in viewpoint discrimination, stating:
Lindsey Barr’s views on marriage and family are protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Lindsey Barr’s views on the appropriateness of a public elementary school reading her young children a picture book with drawings of same-sex couples embracing, pregnant, and parenting are protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Other faculty members were allowed to express their positive views of the book and of same-sex marriage, but Barr was fired for expressing hers.
ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, said:
Terminating a teacher for engaging in First Amendment protected expression creates an atmosphere of fear and sends a message to the teacher and others in the community that, if they criticize the school’s approach to cultural or political issues or express viewpoints contrary to the school’s preferred viewpoints, they will face consequences.
That’s unlawful and why we had to file suit in Lindsey’s situation. The settlement the school district agreed to is a victory for Lindsey, the families of Bryan County Schools, and every parent’s fundamental right to speak out concerning their children.
ADF applauded the settlement of the case, with Sechler saying:
We commend the school district for finally doing the right thing and understanding that the First Amendment protects the right of Lindsey—and all public employees—to express their concerns about what schools are teaching children without the government cancelling them.
The organization also explained that situations like this are exactly why legislation supporting parental rights in education is necessary. In 2022, Georgia passed a Parents’ Bill of Rights, which formalized a process where “parents can request to view all instructional materials that will be used in their student’s classroom,” as the Savannah Morning News reported.
With many schools exposing children to age-inappropriate, sexualized or confusing materials, such legislation is needed in every state.
The case is Barr v. Tucker.
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