I’ve always wanted to set a good example for my three boys—for them to say I practiced what I preached. I didn’t even mind making an “enemy” along the way if it meant, as Winston Churchill said, that that’s a sign you’ve “stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
I just didn’t know that doing so would cost me my job—that the people I had served and worked alongside for years wouldn’t welcome a conversation with me.
When my husband and I first moved to Richmond Hill, Georgia, we jumped in with both feet to serve wherever was needed at Bryan County Schools, where our kids attended. Naturally, we wanted the best education for them, and that meant doing what we could to support the teachers and staff—we had a stake in helping make those classrooms shine. I bought supplies, volunteered for The Miler Club, clocking kids’ miles and cheering them on, and sold ice cream to raise money for the school. I also nominated multiple teachers for WTOC’s Top Teacher, an esteemed recognition from Savannah’s TV station, and was delighted to see my second grader’s teacher win.
I loved being a volunteer mom after 10 years of teaching full-time in the school district. Then my husband and I decided the best thing for our family was for me to substitute teach, which I did beginning in January.
In August, when my two youngest were in first and third grade at McAllister Elementary School, I learned about a picture book that was going to be presented to young students, including my then 6-year-old and 8-year-old, during a library read-aloud program. The book, “All Are Welcome,” contains several illustrations of same-sex couples parenting and expecting children. So I spoke to McAllister’s principal, as a mother, expressing my concern that the book’s illustrations conflict with my faith and the values I seek to impart to my children, and I simply asked that they be excused from the read-aloud program.
My husband and I believe that we should be the ones to talk to our kids about sexuality and other sensitive topics—as is the right of every parent. Moms and dads know their kids best and know when it’s appropriate to bring up mature topics at home and how to frame those discussions with their own particular set of values or religious beliefs.
But the school officials didn’t want to hear from this concerned mom. Soon after I expressed those views, I was fired and was no longer able to substitute teach at McAllister or any of the eight other Bryan County Schools.
School officials terminated my employment because I expressed genuine concern—as a parent—about something happening in my children’s school. In doing so, they violated my fundamental rights as a parent and my freedom of speech and religion guaranteed by the First Amendment. So with the legal assistance of Alliance Defending Freedom, I filed a lawsuit against those officials.
Earlier this year, Georgia enacted a new 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.”
Georgia law allows parents to review school materials, and the First Amendment protects our right to speak out if we have a concern about the material. School officials unlawfully and unfairly targeted me because of my viewpoint.
My faith motivated me to get into teaching in the first place—to show every child the love, respect, and acceptance they deserve as a child of God. I’ve always wanted the best for every one of my precious students. Loving others well sometimes involves taking a difficult stand when you know it’s the right thing to do, even if doing so surprises you because you’ve always been a people-pleaser and the least likely to rock the boat.
But this fight is worth it. Our children’s future is on the line, as well as our parental right to direct their care, upbringing, and education.