RICHMOND HILL, Georgia (LifeSiteNews) — A Georgia school district has reached a settlement with a substitute teacher it fired for taking issue with an LGBT children’s book, agreeing to reinstate Lindsey Barr and pay her $181,000 in legal fees and damages.
The Christian Post reported that last year Barr reached out to McAllister Elementary School principal Heather Tucker to express concern about the inclusion of the book “All Are Welcome,” which features illustrated depictions of same-sex couples, in a school library read-aloud program. Barr’s children were students at that school and she expressed her concerns as a parent. As a result, she was fired.
The religious liberty nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom agreed to take her case, suing Tucker, Bryan County Schools Human Resources director Debi McNeal, and assistant superintendent of teaching and learning Trey Robertson in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia for violating Barr’s freedoms of speech and religion and discriminating against her religious viewpoint.
“Defendants’ firing of Lindsey Barr was neither neutral nor generally applicable but was hostile and targeted directly at the content of her religious beliefs,” the suit argued. “Under Defendants’ policies and practices, Lindsey Barr is not allowed to serve as a substitute teacher because of her views on marriage, family, and the appropriateness of a public elementary school reading her young children a picture book with drawings of same-sex couples embracing, pregnant, and parenting.”
On Monday, ADF announced the settlement, under which the school has offered Barr her job back, agreed to pay for damages, and publicly apologized.
“Upon returning, we encourage you as a parent to raise concerns about material being taught to your children,” Bryan County Schools superintendent Paul Brooksher wrote in a letter to Barr. “Raising such concerns does not preclude employment in our district. For the future, we are focused on the value you add for children across the district as a substitute teacher. We sincerely regret that your separation from the school district caused any distress.”
“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,” ADF senior counsel Tyson Langhofer said. “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.”
The group added that the case highlights the importance of the Parents’ Bill of Rights that Georgia adopted last year, which affirms the “fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their minor children,” including the “right to review all instructional material intended for use in the classroom of his or her minor child,” and establishes “procedures for a parent to object to instructional material intended for use in his or her minor child’s classroom or recommended by his or her minor child’s teacher.”
Two months ago, another school district in Georgia had to pay more than $107,000 to a group of concerned parents who clashed with their school board over pornographic material in its middle school library.