Florida governor Ron DeSantis has signed into law bills banning discussions of LGBTQ+ topics in schools and stopping trans students from playing sports. (Getty)
A christian substitute teacher has been fired from a school after objecting to a children’s book that featured same-sex couple illustrations.
Georgia teacher Lindsey Barr, an early childhood teacher in Bryan County, was hired by her Savannah-area school district in January as a substitute teacher.
In August this year, she was fired from her job after “expressing concerns to her elementary-school principal” about a children’s picture book.
The 2019 book – All Are Welcome – features images of same-sex parents and their children. It was to be included in a new library read-aloud programme at McAllister Elementary School where it would be read to the students, including Barr’s sons.
A description of the book reads: “A bright and uplifting celebration of cultural diversity and belonging, where all children are welcome in the classroom”.
Barr told the National Review that she and her family are devout non-denominational Christians and the images in the book ran counter to her religious beliefs. She also believes that marriage should only happen between a man and a woman.
On 30 September, Barr, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed a lawsuit against Bryan County School District leaders alleging they violated her First Amendment right to free speech and her right to freely exercise her christian religion.
The lawsuit argued that school leaders engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.
Barr said she filed the lawsuit to protect other parents who have concerns about what and how their children are being taught.
“Parents and teachers should not be fired for expressing their genuine concern, especially in regard to their own personal children,” she said.
“It isn’t equity and diversity”
Phil Sechler, senior counsel with ADF, said that under Georgia Law and under the First Amendment, people have the right to express views on what is being taught to their children.
“I think this lawsuit does send an important message to public schools that they can’t bully and intimidate people just because they don’t like their views.”
The lawsuit states Barr subbed around 15 times, mostly at McAllister Elementary, where her sons attend.
In regard to the book displaying drawings of same-sex couples, Barr said: “I would like to be the one who gets to have tough conversations with my children about political topics, or topics that are culturally sensitive.”
After discovering the image in the book Barr reached out to her children’s teachers and they agreed to exclude her sons from the reading.
As well as the book, Barr also raised concern about a poster showing a drawing of two men with a heart between them, and the message “all adults have the right to marriage and to raise a family”.
The christian argued she was “trying to protect my children.
“This is an agenda. This is not ok. If I couldn’t post bible verses in my newsletters or read scripture to my classes or cover my students aloud in prayer, this shouldn’t be allowed either. It isn’t equity and diversity.
“It’s propaganda. You do not have to agree with me, but I appreciate you having the conversation and allowing me to see your perspective as a public school administrator.”
Barr’s religious views ‘revealed biases’
After sending this email Barr was unable to access the school portal where she used to pick substitute teaching assignments.
According to the lawsuit in a meeting on 23 August, Tucker fired Barr, telling her that her comments expressing religious christian views “revealed biases that raised a question whether she could support every child”.
The lawsuit calls for Barr to be reinstated for a declaratory judgement acknowledging that her First and 14th Amendment rights were violated, for compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees, and for the district to purge any records of her dismissal.
It follows Georgia’s new Parents’ Bill of Rights coming into effect in July. The bill enables parents the “right to review all instructional material intended for use in the classroom of his or her minor child”.
Bryan County School has not commented.
It comes as two volumes from the Heartstopper graphic novel series are at the centre of a battle to get a Michigan library defunded over LGBTQ+ books.
Conservatives have used book banning as a weapon to crack down on LGBTQ+ content in libraries and schools. A study found four in 10 (41 per cent) books banned in US schools during the 2021-22 school year contained LGBTQ+ themes or characters.