A substitute teacher in Bryan County, Georgia, was fired after expressing her concerns about a book in the school library depicting same-sex couples taking their children to school and two lesbian mothers, one of whom is pregnant.
Lindsey Barr, 37, first encountered the book, titled “All Are Welcome,” when her 6-year-old son’s teacher informed parents that it would be introduced to students during a “read aloud” story time in the school library.
Barr’s three children attend public school in Bryan County, with her first- and third-grade sons attending McAllister Elementary School, where she sometimes teaches.
“I actually thought that the theme of the book was great, kindness, … including everyone,” Barr told The Daily Signal, “but the images, the illustrations, are contrary to what we believe for traditional marriage and families.”
Barr, who is a Christian, spoke with the principal of McAllister Elementary School, explaining her and her husband’s desire to be the ones to introduce the concepts of marriage and family to their children rather than the school. While Barr didn’t ask that the book be removed from the library, she did request that her children not be exposed to the content.
The principal agreed that her sons didn’t need to participate in the story time, and Barr felt that the issue was resolved.
But not long after the conversation, Barr attempted to log into the online portal the school uses for substitute teachers and was denied access. She emailed the principal, asking if she had been removed as a substitute teacher, but didn’t hear back.
“The next thing that I heard from the school was from the human resources director asking me to come in for a face-to-face meeting in regard to my role as a substitute teacher,” Barr told The Daily Signal.
During that meeting, Barr was told that she could no longer be a substitute teach with the Bryan County school district because of her “biases against same-sex couples.”
Philip A. Sechler, senior counsel with religious liberty organization Alliance Defending Freedom, sent a letter to Trey Robertson, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning at the Bryan County Board of Education, demanding that the school district reinstate Barr so she can resume working as a substitute teacher at McAllister, and that it refrain from any future retaliation against Barr for her protected speech.
Sechler had asked for a response from Robertson or the school district by 5 p.m. Sept. 16, explaining that if Barr was not reinstated, she would be “forced to pursue other legal options to vindicate her rights.”
Neither Robertson nor any other Bryan County school district official responded.
Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit Sept. 30 against McAllister Elementary School and Bryan County Schools with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Savannah Division.
“Lindsey spoke out as a Christian, a mother and a private citizen on a matter of public concern—namely, the content and age-appropriateness of a picture book that the school planned to read to her kids that conflicted with her family’s values and faith,” Sechler said in a press release. “Yet, school officials immediately retaliated against her for expressing those views and fired her from a job at which she excelled. The First Amendment protects the right of Lindsey—and all public employees—to express their concerns about what schools are teaching their children without the government cancelling them.”