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I’ve always wanted to set a good example for my three boys – to let them say I practice what I preach. I didn’t even mind making an “enemy” about it if it meant, as Winston Churchill said, that it’s a sign that you’ve “standing up for something at some point in your life.”
What I didn’t know was that it would cost me my job—that the people I’d served and worked with for years wouldn’t welcome a conversation with me.
When my husband and I first moved to Richmond Hill, Georgia, we pitched in to serve wherever it was needed at the Bryan County Schools our children attended. Of course we wanted the best education for them and that meant doing everything we could to support the teachers and staff – we had an interest in making those classrooms shine. I’ve bought supplies, volunteered for the Miler Club, earned kids miles and cheered them on, and sold ice cream to raise money for the school. I’ve also nominated several teachers for WTOC Top Teacher, a prized recognition from Savannah’s TV network, and was delighted that my second grader’s teacher won.
I loved being a volunteer mom after teaching full time in the school district for 10 years. Then my husband and I decided that it would be best for our family if I taught substitute classes, which I did starting in January.
GEORGIA MOM SAYS SHE WAS FIRED FROM SUBSTITUTE TEACHER JOB AFTER OBJECTING TO BOOKING AT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
In August, when my two youngest children were in first and third grades at McAllister Elementary School, I learned about a picture book that was to be presented to young students, including my then 6-year-old and 8-year-old library read-aloud program. The book All Are Welcome contains several illustrations of same-sex couples becoming parents and expecting children. So, as a mother, I spoke to McAllister’s director and expressed my concern that the book’s illustrations contradicted my beliefs and the values I want to instill in 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 speaking with our children about sexuality and other sensitive issues – as is every parent’s right. Mothers and fathers know their children best and know when it is appropriate to bring up adult issues at home and how to balance these discussions with their own values or religious beliefs.
But the school administration would not hear from this concerned mother. Shortly after voicing these views, I was fired and could no longer teach at McAllister or any of the eight other Bryan County schools.
School officials terminated my employment because, as a parent, I expressed serious concern that something was happening at my children’s school. In doing so, they violated my basic rights as a parent and my freedom of speech and religion guaranteed by the First Amendment. So, with the legal aid of Alliance Defending Freedom, I filed a lawsuit against these officers.
BETSY DEVOS: THE NEXT FIGHT IN THE WAR FOR PARENTS’ RIGHTS IN EDUCATION IS A LINE THAT POLITICIANS DARE NOT DARE TO CROSS
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Earlier this year, Georgia enacted a new law, the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which recognizes the “fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their minor children” and gives them the “right to review all educational materials intended for use in the classroom of his or her minor child.” This statute directs every educational authority, including the Bryan County Board of Education, to “establish procedures for parents to object to educational materials intended for use in the classroom of his or her minor child or recommended by the teacher of his or her minor child”.
Georgian law allows parents to review school materials, and the First Amendment protects our right to speak up when we have concerns about the material. School officials illegally and unfairly attacked me for my point of view.
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My faith motivated me to even start teaching—showing every child the love, respect, and acceptance that they deserve as a child of God. I always wanted the best for each of my precious students. Loving others well sometimes means taking a difficult stance when you know it’s the right thing to do, even if it surprises you because you’ve always been a humanitarian and you’re the least inclined to shake the boat.
But this fight is worth it. The future of our children is at stake, as is our parental right to direct their care, upbringing and education.