Mississippi school board upholds layoff for ‘New Butt’ book

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FILE – Toby Price, former vice-principal of Gary Road Elementary School in Byram, Miss., testifies during an appeal hearing at the Hinds County Schools Administration Building in Raymond, Miss., Monday, March 28, 2022 , regarding his firing after reading the children’s book he holds, “I Need a New Ass!” by Dawn McMillan. Price told the Clarion Ledger he received a 12-page order on Monday, May 11, 2022, showing the Hinds County School Board voted 2-1 to uphold the superintendent’s decision to fire him in March. He was an assistant principal at Gary Road Elementary in the Jackson suburb of Byram. (Barbara Gauntt/The Clarion-Ledger via AP, File)

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A Mississippi educator who was fired for reading a children’s book titled “I Need a New Ass!” sophomores says he will go to court to try to get his job back.

Toby Price told the Clarion Ledger he received a 12-page order on Monday showing the Hinds County School Board voted 2-1 in late April to uphold the superintendent’s decision to fire him in March. He was an assistant principal at Gary Road Elementary in the Jackson suburb of Byram.

Price was initially suspended with pay, but was later fired after reading the book on Zoom. The book, by Dawn McMillan, chronicles a child’s journey to find a new behind. It is illustrated with cartoons that show the character considering an armored stock, a rocket stock, and a robot stock.

As Price appealed, Superintendent Delesicia Martin called the book “inappropriate” because it showed “intimate body parts”.

Price, an educator for two decades, called the book “dumb” and said, “Kids are in on the joke as they read it.”

Teachers have come under increased scrutiny across the country — especially in Republican-led states — as advocates push challenges and book bans in a bid to restrict how students learn certain subjects, in particular around racism, sexuality and gender.

Following its appeal hearing, the school board met on April 28 and heard from Price, his attorneys and school district officials. Council members then convened in closed session and, with two of the five abstaining, voted to uphold his dismissal.

“He does not see the problems associated with a school administrator desensitizing both adult nudity and child nudity by exposing it to children in his or her care,” the board wrote. “At a minimum, it conditions children to believe that all kinds of actions are okay – they’re just funny. However, these activities are dangerous for children.

The council said “I need a new ass!” showed inappropriate activity such as an adult painting on a child’s exposed buttocks, an activity that would require a report to the state Department of Human Services for child abuse or neglect, the board wrote.

Price’s attorney listed other books in the school library that have similar themes or artwork, including “Captain Underpants”.

Price posted a short poem on Twitter referencing the superintendent’s decision, saying, “Price’s work in education spanned nearly twenty years / All it took was a book stupid to end his career. / Giving that kind of power to one person / Will only make education and teaching worse.”

Then he posted an update: “Two voted yes. One voted no. Two said nothing. Price therefore had to leave.

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