SAVANNAH, Ga. – To settle a lawsuit brought by a fired Georgia substitute teacher, officials at McAllister Elementary and Bryan County Schools have agreed to reinstate her, pay $181,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees, and publicly expressed regret after violating her constitutionally protected freedoms.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent Lindsey Barr. Bryan County Schools officials fired her as a substitute teacher merely for expressing concerns as a parent over drawings in a picture book being presented to students, including her own young children, at McAllister Elementary School during a library read-aloud program. The book, “All Are Welcome,” contains several illustrations of same-sex couples parenting and expecting children.
“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. Yet school officials immediately retaliated against her for expressing those views and fired her from a job at which she excelled,” said ADF Senior Counsel Philip A. Sechler. “We commend the school district for finally doing the right thing and understanding that the First Amendment protects the right of Lindsey—and all public employees—to express their concerns about what schools are teaching children without the government cancelling them.”
As part of the settlement agreement, the Bryan County Schools superintendent issued a letter to Barr announcing the reinstatement of her teaching position: “Upon returning, we encourage you as a parent to raise concerns about material being taught to your children,” the superintendent wrote. “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,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “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.”
Barr’s situation highlights the need for the new Georgia law, the Parents’ Bill of Rights, that recognizes the “fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their minor children” and affords them the “right to review all instructional material intended for use in the classroom of his or her minor child.” This law directs each board of education, including the Bryan County Board of Education, to adopt “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.”
In light of the settlement in the lawsuit, Barr v. Tucker, ADF attorneys filed a stipulated dismissal Monday.
Keri M. Martin, one of more than 4,700 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, served as local counsel on behalf of Barr.
- Pronunciation guide: Sechler (SECK-lur); Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.