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Mississippi school district upholds teacher’s firing for reading I Need a New Butt! to kids

By Maya Yang
Toby Price, a former assistant principal at Gary Road elementary school in Byram, Mississippi, testifies during an appeal hearing at the Hinds county schools administration building in Raymond, Mississippi, on 28 March.
Toby Price, a former assistant principal at Gary Road elementary school in Byram, Mississippi, testifies during an appeal hearing at the Hinds county schools administration building in Raymond, Mississippi, on 28 March. Photograph: Barbara Gauntt/AP

The firing of a Mississippi assistant principal for reading pupils a humorous children’s book, I Need A New Butt!, has been upheld by his school district.

The book describes a boy who tries to find a new bottom after he sees a “crack” in his current bottom which makes him afraid it is broken.

In March, Toby Price, an assistant principal at Gary Road elementary school in Hinds county, Mississippi, was fired after reading the book to 240 children in a Zoom session.

Price was called to the district superintendent’s office and told that he was being placed on leave.

In a letter, the superintendent called the book “inappropriate” as it “described butts in various colors, shapes and sizes (example: fireproof, bullet proof, bomb proof)”.

“The book contains statements and cartoon pictures regarding bodily anatomy, bodily functions and removing clothing to expose private areas of the body in various positions,” the district said.

Price was fired two days later, after being accused of violating the Mississippi Educator Code of Ethics. He appealed. But on Monday his lawyers informed him the firing was upheld.

In a report reviewed by the Washington Post, the district said: “Mr Price’s contract should be terminated due to his incompetence, neglect of duty, and for good cause.”

According to the report, two board members voted yes, one voted no and two abstained.

An educator for 20 years, Price plans to pursue an appeal with the chancery courts of Mississippi. If that does not work, he plans to take his case to the state supreme court.

“If that’s where it ends up, that’s where it ends up,” he told the Post.

“We expected this part to happen but at the same time it doesn’t make it any easier,” he said, adding: “It still stings.”

A GoFundMe campaign launched to support Price and his family has raised more than $125,000. Price said he had turned down out-of-state job offers.

His firing ignited a firestorm of criticism from free speech advocates who argue it could have a devastating effect on students and educators, especially as conservative-fueled gag orders make their way across schools in the US.

In Hinds county, 21% of residents live below the poverty line.

“We have a lot of reluctant readers,” Price told the New York Times, adding: “I am a firm believer that reluctant readers need the silly, funny books to hook them in.”

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Dive Deeper:
Mississippi school board upholds firing over 'New Butt' book
A Mississippi educator fired for reading a children’s book called “I Need a New Butt!”
Teacher fired for aiding bullied teen
An 8th-grade social studies teacher was reportedly fired after providing students with number to a support hotline
All in the family: Dad, son, daughter earn master's degrees
A father and his two children have graduated together from a branch of Mississippi State University, each earning a master’s…
Las Vegas struggles with rising violence in schools
The nation's fifth largest school district has seen a jump in violent incidents since returning from 15 months of virtual-only…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Heidi Stevens: An important win for reason and inclusivity in battle over 'love is love' photos in Florida yearbook
Some cooler heads have prevailed in Florida, where Seminole County School Board members unanimously voted down a proposal to cover…
Convicted ex-friar won't be tried in 2nd sex abuse case
Mississippi prosecutors have dropped a second set of charges against a former Franciscan friar who was convicted last month of…
Get all your news in one place