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Teacher Who Was Suspended After She Showed Photo of Her Wife Reaches $100,000 Settlement

In August 2017, Stacy Bailey, an art teacher at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School in Arlington, Texas, introduced herself to her fourth-grade class with a slide show of her childhood, parents, friends and family.

Included in the mix was a photo of her with her partner, Julie Vasquez, who Ms. Bailey explained at the time was her future wife. They were dressed as “Dory” and “Nemo” from the movie “Finding Nemo.”

The presentation touched off a complaint from a parent that Ms. Bailey was “promoting the homosexual agenda.” Ms. Bailey was suspended for eight months from the public school, where she had taught for 10 years and had twice been voted Teacher of the Year.

This week, more than two years later, the Mansfield Independent School District agreed to pay Ms. Bailey $100,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that she had filed accusing the district of discriminating against her because of her sexual orientation.

Under the settlement, the district also agreed to provide mandatory training on L.G.B.T.Q. issues for its human resources and counseling staff members and to consider adopting a formal policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The district will also expunge Ms. Bailey’s suspension from her record and provide her with a letter of recommendation for potential future employers.

Ms. Bailey, 33, said she hoped the settlement would send a message of encouragement to other L.G.B.T.Q. teachers — and a warning to districts about the dangers of intolerance.

“If a district is thinking about bullying or shaming a gay teacher out of their job, I hope they remember my name,” Ms. Bailey said. “And I hope they think twice.”

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Ms. Bailey was put on leave after she showed her students this photograph of her and Ms. Vazquez.

The Mansfield Independent School District, which serves more than 35,000 students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said it did not acknowledge any discrimination against Ms. Bailey as part of the settlement.

“All parties deny any wrongdoing or liability, but wish to resolve their disputes to avoid the time, expense, stress and other impacts of continuing litigation, which would interfere with the mission of educating the students of MISD,” the district said.

The district had denied discriminating against Ms. Bailey. Instead, the district said, it was concerned that she had not followed district guidelines that require “controversial subjects be taught in ‘an impartial and objective manner.’”

“Teachers shall not use the classroom to transmit personal belief regarding political or sectarian issues,” the district said in May 2018 after Ms. Baily filed her lawsuit in federal court in Dallas.

Ms. Bailey sued after the district told her in April 2018 that she would not be allowed to return to Charlotte Anderson Elementary School and would instead be reassigned to a high school in the district. That fall, she was transferred to Lake Ridge High School in Mansfield, where she continues to teach art.

“To me, that was not only hurtful, it was unacceptable,” Ms. Bailey said, adding that the transfer sent the message that “gay teachers are not allowed at the elementary level.”

Ms. Bailey stood silently with Ms. Vazquez, who is now her wife, at a news conference with her lawyer, Jason Smith, to announce the lawsuit. She said the district told her she could be fired if she commented on the case.

“That isolation and silencing was one of the hardest things I had to overcome,” she said.

But there were uplifting moments, too, she said.

On her first day at Lake Ridge High School, L.G.B.T.Q. students stormed her classroom with baskets filled with rainbow flags and candy. Some were crying as they lined up to greet her.

“I could tell it meant a lot to them that I was there,” Ms. Bailey said. “Even though I walked into that school terrified, it was comforting, and it reminded me of who I was and why it was important to fight for this cause.”

The district agreed to settle the case after Judge Sam A. Lindsay of U.S. District Court in Dallas ruled in November that there did not appear to be any legitimate reason for Ms. Bailey to have been suspended and transferred to another school.

“Based on the pleadings, the court reasonably draws the inference that Mansfield I.S.D.’s decision to place her on administrative leave for eight months and then not permit her to resume her job teaching art to elementary school students was based on her sexual orientation and a desire to appease complaining parents in the community operating on the basis of outdated stereotypes about homosexuals,” Judge Lindsay wrote.

Such actions, he wrote, would violate Ms. Bailey’s 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.

“The judge’s ruling is clear: that gay teachers are protected by the constitution,” Mr. Smith said on Wednesday.

Mr. Smith said he planned to donate $10,000 of his legal fee to the Human Rights Campaign, which consulted with him on the case. Ms. Bailey said she planned to donate $10,000 from the settlement to an organization that supports L.G.B.T.Q. students.

“I think it’s important for teachers like me to be able to be themselves in their workplaces without fear,” she said, particularly teachers in rural or suburban districts. “Feeling safe in your workplace should not be dependent on where you live.”

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