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GA substitute teacher fired after raising concerns about picture book shown to young children

ADF attorneys represent Lindsey Barr in federal lawsuit against McAllister Elementary, Bryan County Schools officials

Monday, Oct 3, 2022
SAVANNAH, Ga. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a Georgia substitute teacher filed suit Friday against officials at McAllister Elementary School and Bryan County Schools for violating her constitutionally protected rights.

Lindsey Barr was fired from her job as a substitute teacher at Bryan County Schools merely for expressing concerns over drawings in a picture book being presented to students, including her own young children, at McAllister Elementary School in the course of 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 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. 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. “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.”

“Terminating a teacher for engaging in First Amendment protected expression creates an atmosphere of fear and is intended to send a message to Lindsey 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. “This is unlawful, and sadly, why this lawsuit is necessary.”

Barr spoke to the McAllister principal as a mother, expressing her concerns that the book’s illustrations conflict with her faith and the values she seeks to impart to her two children who attend the school, and she asked that they be excused from the read-aloud program. Soon after expressing those views, although the principal told her that her children would be excused, she was fired from her job and now can no longer teach at McAllister or any of the nine Bryan County schools.

Barr’s situation conflicts with a 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.”

On Sept. 13, ADF attorneys sent a letter to Bryan County Schools explaining that Barr’s termination was in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution and urging the district to reinstate her as a substitute teacher. When school officials refused, ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Barr v. Tucker, with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Savannah Division. Keri Martin, one of more than 4,600 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, is serving as local counsel on behalf of Barr.

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to protecting First Amendment and related freedoms for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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