Christian Substitute Teacher and Mom Was Fired for Opposing Gay Book, Now She's Won Her Case
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A Christian substitute teacher has been reinstated to her job and awarded $181,000 in damages and attorneys' fees after a Georgia school district settled her lawsuit Monday. The district has also publicly apologized to her.
Last August, Lindsey Barr was fired by Bryan County Schools officials as a substitute teacher after she raised concerns about a book that was going to be read to her three children at McAllister Elementary School during a library read-aloud program. The book titled All Are Welcome, contains several illustrations of same-sex couples parenting and expecting children.
The book caused Barr concern because it contained depictions that conflicted with her sincerely held religious views on marriage and family. She believes the book is inappropriate for young children and that it appeared to be part of an effort to indoctrinate young children into a progressive ideology.
Barr brought her concerns as a teacher and parent to the school principal and asked that her own children be excused from this reading time. The very next day, she was unable to access the Bryan County Schools portal she used to accept substitute teaching assignments. Five days later, she was informed by the school that they had terminated her ability to substitute at any Bryan County School.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys representing Barr first sent a demand letter last September explaining that her termination was in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution and urging the district to reinstate her as a substitute teacher. When district officials refused, the law firm filed a federal lawsuit arguing, "The First Amendment clearly prohibits BCS from engaging in 'viewpoint discrimination,' or the punishment of speech where 'the opinion or perspective of the speaker' is the rationale for the punishment."
"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 Alliance Defending Freedom 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 canceling them," he added.
As part of the settlement agreement, Dr. Paul Brooksher, superintendent of Bryan County Schools, 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," Brooksher 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."
In an emailed statement to CBN News, district spokesperson Melissa Roberts explained, "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. The settlement agreement states Mrs. Barr was paid $45,000 and her attorneys were paid $136,000 for fees and costs. Both were paid by the insurance company."
"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," the statement said.
ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, criticized district officials for creating an "atmosphere of fear" among its teachers so they won't speak out.
"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," Langhofer said.
"That's unlawful and why we had to file suit in Lindsey's situation," he explained. "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."
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.
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