Mississippi: the assistant director fired for the choice of a book
A Mississippi school district vice-principal was fired after reading a children’s book to a 2nd grade class that district leaders said was inappropriate.
Toby Price was fired last week after reading ‘I Need a New Butt’, a children’s book by Dawn McMillan, to students at an elementary school in Byrum, a suburb of the state capital of Jackson. He had held the position for three years until his dismissal.
“I was asked to schedule a Zoom where we were going to have a guest reader with the second graders. The Zoom reader didn’t show up and I didn’t get a response, so I was told to go ahead and read,” Price told media.
The book depicts a young child trying to find a new ass after discovering he “has a huge crack,” read a description.
“Is he going to choose an armored butt? A rocket butt? A robot ass? Find out in this quirky tale of a tail, which features hilarious rhymes and delightful illustrations,” it read. “Kids and parents will love this book – no ifs, ands or butts about it!”
Price said he had read the book, which has a suggested age range of 4 to 10, in previous school districts, but never heard any rejections or complaints. As far as he is aware, he said, no complaints have been filed regarding his last reading, at Gary Road Elementary in Byrum.
“I didn’t hesitate to read it because I had never had a problem with it before. There are other books that have much more suggestive material that are much more widely accepted,” Price said.
A letter from Hinds County Schools Superintendent Delesicia Martin cited “unnecessary embarrassment, lack of professionalism and impaired judgment” on Price’s part in choosing the book and for these reasons he was fired. .
Price said he plans to appeal his dismissal at a hearing later this month.
“I’ve never had, like, a disciplinary recommendation before. I mean, I’ve been in education for 20 years. I never had one, not even for being late,” Price said.
Since his dismissal, Price has received support from children’s book authors, teachers and librarians who argue that the book is “hilarious and sweet”, “joyful and fun” and “lighthearted” and that Martin’s decision to let him go was wrong.
“It’s a funny, silly book,” he said, adding that it’s also one of his favorites.
“If you don’t let kids see funny and silly books, they won’t stick around long enough to find out that books can be anything other than funny and silly. You have to hook them with the funny and silly stuff. And that’s what I’ve always done. That’s what this book was for,” Price said.