An educator read “I need a new ass!” to children. Then he was fired.


It was Reading Week across America, and sophomores in the Hinds County School District in Mississippi were waiting for an administrator to read to them.

The administrator had forgotten it was his turn, said Toby Price, the vice principal of Gary Road Elementary School in Hinds County, who was in his office at the time. He decided to fill.

Mr Price, 46, quickly grabbed a book – ‘I need a new ass!’ by Dawn McMillan, one of her children’s favorites – and began reading it to the approximately 240 second graders on Zoom.

Later that day, on March 2, District Superintendent Delesicia Martin called him into her office and told him he was on administrative leave, Price said. He was fired two days later, accused of violating the standards of conduct section of the Mississippi Educator Code of Ethics.

In a letter to Mr Price, the superintendent called the book “inappropriate”. She particularly took issue with the references to farting in the story and how “the book describes butts of different colors, shapes, and sizes (example: fireproof, bulletproof, bombproof)”. Ms Martin called Mr Price “unprofessional” for selecting the book.

“I was expecting a write-up,” said Mr. Price, who had worked for the district for three years. “I didn’t expect to be fired. I cried all the way back.

Mr Price, who was an educator for 20 years, said he had hired a lawyer and planned to challenge the dismissal with the school board.

Ms. Martin and the five-member school board did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Friday. But Mr Price’s dismissal has drawn fierce criticism from children’s authors and PEN America, a free speech organization that fights book bans.

Credit…The cover of “I need a new ass”.

In a letter, PEN America said that “by positioning the act of reading a book as an ethical violation, the district is implying that any educator could be fired under similar circumstances” – a fear many teachers face. are already grappling after a slaying of Republican-led efforts last fall to ban schools from teaching and discussing race, racism and other “dividing concepts.”

On the elementary school’s Facebook page, the grandmother of one of the school’s students posted a story about Mr Price’s dismissal and said she planned to speak on his behalf in front of the board school and fight to get “his job back”.

“My granddaughter heard him read the book and thought it was hilarious and not at all inappropriate!” wrote the grandmother.

Mr. Price said that was the reaction of the students after reading the book. He remembers going down the hall and being approached by students who thanked him for his choice.

“They loved it,” he said. “They all stopped me and said, ‘Mr. Price, that book was really good.

The Hinds County School District has approximately 5,500 students and 425 teachers and covers half a dozen towns near Jackson, Mississippi. More than 21% of Hinds County’s general population lives below the poverty line, well above the national average, according to Data USA. .

Mr Price said it was particularly important to teach literacy at his school, where many children depend on free or reduced-price meals.

“We have a lot of reluctant readers,” he said. “I firmly believe that reluctant readers need silly, funny books to hook them.”

“I need a new ass!”, published in 2012, is aimed at children aged 4 to 8 and tells the story of a young boy who goes in search of a new behind after seeing a “crack” in his and is afraid it’s broken.

Mr Price said school administrators told him they were worried they would receive complaints from parents about the matter.

When called into the superintendent’s office, he said one of the administrators asked him, “Is this the kind of thing you find funny?”

Mr. Price replied: “Well, I did before I came in here.”

He said he just wanted to get his job back so he could support his three children. Her two eldest, a 19-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son, have severe autism.

“I’m tired. I’m stressed. I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “I need to work.”


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