Lindsey Barr has been reinstated as a Georgia substitute teacher in the Bryan County Schools after being unjustly fired due to voicing her concerns over a picture book shown to elementary students.
The book, called “All Are Welcome,” includes what Barr refers to as “questionable, debatable illustrations” that contradict her convictions. These drawings reportedly show same-sex couples in parenting roles. Barr disagreed with the content being shared with children, like her first- and third-grade sons who attend McAllister Elementary School.
“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,” Philip A. Sechler, Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel, said in a statement. “Yet school officials immediately retaliated against her for expressing those views and fired her from a job at which she excelled.”
In a Fox News clip, Barr admitted she first requested that the administration exclude her children from “these types of lessons” during a read-aloud program. But then, she questioned, “Is this the direction that our school’s moving in?”
After a discussion with the principal, Heather Tucker, Barr lost access to the school’s online system and was informed that her sons would be excused from story time. Tucker reportedly said Barr’s alarm to the book “revealed biases that raised a question whether she could support every child.”
Alliance Defending Freedom represented Barr as she sued the school system for violating her First Amendment rights. “The public schools have no business pushing radical ideologies on our students, especially the youngest of our students,” the mother said.
Barr prevailed in her lawsuit, with the school agreeing to give Barr back her teaching position and pay $181,000 in legal fees.
As part of the settlement agreement, the superintendent wrote a letter to Barr, saying: “Upon returning, we encourage you as a parent to raise concerns about material being taught to your children. 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.”
This openness to review student materials aligns with the recently passed Parents Bill of Rights in the state of Georgia, which gives parents the right to both observe and object to school curricula.
“It’s pretty clear that public schools can’t fire teachers for expressing concerns about their children’s education,” said Tyson Langhofer, another ADF senior counsel and director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom.
“We see this debate going on around the country. Should schools be engaged in indoctrinating young children on really controversial topics, or should they be focused on reading, writing and arithmetic?” Langhofer said. “It’s important for school boards to know parents are fed up with [them] … focusing more on indoctrinating their children than educating them.
“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.”