(Daily Caller) – A Georgia school district will reinstate and pay $181,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees to a substitute teacher who was fired after speaking out against a book read to students that illustrated same-sex couples expecting children, legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) announced on Monday.
ADF represented Lindsey Barr after she was fired by McAllister Elementary School and Bryan County Schools officials for raising concerns about “All Are Welcome,” a picture book that shows same-sex couples, being read at a library story program, according to ADF. She sued officials in September 2022 on First and Fourteenth amendment grounds, claiming that her firing was motivated by her protected speech, according to the lawsuit.
“I think teachers shouldn’t be fired for expressing genuine concern about what’s being taught in schools, especially when it concerns their own children, and being retaliated against I felt it was worth fighting for,” Barr told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Barr had told the principal that she believed the book was inappropriate for elementary students and asked that her own two children be excused from the program, according to the lawsuit. She was locked out of her substitute teaching account the following day and told five days later that she would no longer be a substitute teacher.
“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 in the group’s report. “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.”
Melissa Roberts, coordinator of communications & marketing at Bryan County Schools, told the DCNF that the “insurance company for Bryan County Schools made a business decision to settle this lawsuit, to save the time, trouble, and expense of litigation.”
“It has paid the settlement amount, with none of that money coming from the School District,” Roberts said. “The District notes that there is no admission of liability on the part of the School District. In fact, the District Court Judge had denied Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction, determining that Plaintiff failed to establish a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of her claims.”
Bryan County Schools Superintendent Paul Brooksher sent a letter to Barr informing her of her reinstatement, during which he encouraged her to “raise concerns about material being taught to your children,” ADF reported.
“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,” he wrote. “We sincerely regret that your separation from the school district caused any distress.”
Barr told the DCNF she was “excited” to hear that she would be reinstated and that it “was the right step” for the school to take in “recognizing they’re wrong in this and rectifying the issue.” She said it is important for teachers to know the rights that they have to advocate for students and their children.
“They do get to go and vocalize curriculum or things that they see happening that are concerning to them,” she said. “They do have a place to speak without fear of losing their job.”
Brooksher did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.