Texas art teacher Stacy Bailey, who was suspended last September after she showed students a photo of her "future wife," had her teaching contract renewed Tuesday night by the Mansfield Independent School District (MISD).
But it's still unknown when Bailey will return to teaching, and if she'll be permitted to return to Charlotte Anderson Elementary in Arlington. That's where she has taught since 2008 and where she won Teacher of the Year twice, including in 2017.
"The investigation has not concluded, but her contract has been renewed," said Hope Boyd, a spokesperson for MISD. The district did not provide any other information about the eight-month-long investigation.
When BuzzFeed News asked MISD when Bailey would return to teaching and which school she would be working at, Boyd said it "will be known when the investigation concludes." The school year concludes next month.
In March, MISD said in a press release Bailey was suspended after they "received complaints from parents about Ms. Bailey discussing her sexual orientation with elementary-aged students."
The suspension was first reported by the Dallas Morning News. Bailey's lawyer Giana Ortiz disputed the statement by MISD, and said the suspension was based on one parental complaint.
During the first class of the school year in August 2017, Bailey showed students a PowerPoint presentation introducing herself and her classroom rules. It included a photo of her then-fiancée Julie Vazquez, who Bailey told students was "her future wife." She was suspended two weeks after class started.
The concern before Tuesday night's school board meeting was that the school board wouldn't renew her contract, effectively terminating Bailey. But the board voted in favor to renew her 2018–19 contract.
At the Tuesday board meeting, some parents and teachers spoke in support of Bailey returning to work.
"She’s missed and we hope she can return to Charlotte Anderson, where she belongs, along with her family,” Kristen Hendrix, a fellow teacher at the school, told the school board at the meeting.
Lisa Duhamel, a former MISD teacher who retired in 2017, said she kept photos of her husband on her desk and that every year he'd visit her on the first day of school. "No one ever accused me of trying to indoctrinate my students into any lifestyle," she told the board.
Other parents from MISD (although none that seemed to have current students at Charlotte Anderson or were taught by Bailey) applauded the board for suspending her.
A local conservative political group Texas Values had called on its members to turn up to Tuesday's meeting — including offering specific talking points they should mention, which several people did — and it was forwarded to the email list of the Tarrant County Republican Party.
MISD parent Angela Martin said, "The MISD school board did the right thing by listening to those concerned parents and stopping the promotion for the LGBTQ agenda."
Parent Robert Thomas (it's unknown what school his daughter attends) said he was there on behalf of his daughter, who was an artist.
"When she comes home and tells me that for her to be creative, that she has to become gay, I have issues," he said.
It was the third school district meeting since news of her suspension became public. When anyone mentioned Bailey by name, school district board members told the crowd to avoid her name.
"We’re not supposed to say her name right? Refrain from using any names," one board member said.
Board policy prohibits the discussion of complaints against district employees during an open forum, Boyd told BuzzFeed News. "No specific employee name is to be addressed in the public comments section, per board policy."
Before her suspension, Bailey had contacted the school district about the possibility of introducing LGBT protections for students and staff of MISD schools; discrimination protections exist in other nearby school districts but are not protected statewide.
Two parents speaking at Tuesday's school board meeting, including Martin, said they'd consider leaving the school district if protections for LGBT people were put in place.
"The left and the media have twisted the story and are using it to push for 'sexual-orientation, gender-identity' policies in the school district," said Texas Values in a statement.
Bailey is unable to speak to the press, her students, or colleagues during the administrative leave. Instead, her wife Julie Vazquez (the couple married in March), who addressed the board meeting Tuesday, spoke with BuzzFeed News.
"It’s been really eye-opening. I’ve learned a lot through this process about school districts and the little fiefdoms they are and the power they have," said Vazquez.
She said her wife has been volunteering at a local hospice organization several days a week, playing music and bingo with patients there. But she said Bailey was desperate to get back into the classroom.
Even now, despite the contract being renewed, Bailey has not yet been told when she can return to her classroom, said Vazquez.
"The saga continues, forever. You feel blind, because there’s no communication," said Vazquez.