It is always a special moment when the cool teacher lets their students in on just a little bit of their personal life. It makes them more relatable, makes them more human, and hopefully helps to dissolve the ever-adorable assumption of students that the teachers just live at school– I remember the first time I ran into my art teacher outside of the classroom. Suddenly, she was a real person who also shopped at Michaels. The tricky part of this sharing is that a teacher has to maintain appropriate boundaries and not everyone agrees on what those boundaries are or what they ought to be. For example, you may remember this story, wherein Mansfield ISD “Teacher of the Year” Stacy Bailey was put on administrative leave for eight months after sharing a photo of herself with her partner Julie Vazquez and referring to Vazquez as her “future wife.” 

Angry parents of the students in her class asserted that this was an inappropriate personal detail to share with her class. They called her comments “not age-appropriate for her students” and accused her of trying to push an agenda. Understandably, Bailey was shocked when the school administration sided with the angry parents and placed her on an eight month administrative leave. She certainly hadn’t felt that she was sharing too much personal information with her students. After all, plenty of straight teachers have photos of themselves with their families in their classrooms. They talk about their spouses, kids, and pets, and no one bats an eye. Could this be a case where the LGBTQ community is once again seen as inherently sexualized? Did the parents already not like this highly awarded and recognized educator for other reasons and use this as an excuse? Whatever the reason for the administration’s actions, the result was the same: a blatant infringement on Bailey’s rights. As if teachers didn’t have enough to deal with, now they can’t even talk about their families freely. Years ago, I might’ve just rolled my eyes at all of this and sighed “Oh, Texas,” but let’s be real– that does not give Texas the credit it is due and it is a perfect cop-out for the school administration. Luckily, Bailey didn’t just roll her eyes and say “Oh, Texas.” She felt strongly enough about her unfair treatment that she took it to the courts. And. She. Won.

Of course, winning a court case doesn’t take away the hurt, but it very likely softens the blow. Especially because not only did Bailey win the monetary damages she asked for, but she also got the school district to agree to add trainings related to LGBTQ+ issues and to consider creating protections for its other LGBTQIA+ teachers to prevent this sort of thing from happening again. That’s not a promise, but it is a start! I’m proud of Bailey for standing up for herself even when that was a difficult and harrowing journey. I can only hope that the school district does, in fact, learn from this and treat others better in the future. 

 

Do you know anyone who stands up for themself in a way that inspires you? Are you that person that stands up in the face of discrimination? Tell us all about it!