School leader fired for reading ‘New Butt’ book awaits fate

Mar 29, 2022, 4:37 PM | Updated: 5:02 pm

BYRAM, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi educator will have to wait to see if he will be rehired after he was fired for reading a children’s book called “I Need a New Butt!” to a group of second graders.

Toby Price is trying to regain his job as assistant principal at Gary Road Elementary in the Jackson suburb of Byram in Hinds County. His employment appeal hearing started last week and resumed Monday, lasting about five hours, WJTV-TV reported.

The Hinds County School Board’s decision on Price’s employment is expected in about two months.

Price was initially suspended with pay but later fired after reading the book to young students over Zoom. The book, by Dawn McMillan, chronicles a child’s journey to find a new backside. It is illustrated with cartoons that show the character considering an armor-plated butt, a rocket butt and a robot butt.

In a statement after the hearing, Superintendent Delesicia Martin called the book “inappropriate.”

“First and foremost, 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,” Martin said. “These statements and pictures are inappropriate for an educator to read and display to second graders, especially without advance notice to the teachers of the students.”

Teachers have been under increased scrutiny nationwide as advocates have pushed book challenges and bans in an attempt to restrict how students are taught certain subjects, particularly around racism, sexuality and gender.

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

Price described the book as “silly” and one that children could enjoy, the Clarion Ledger reported.

“The kids are in on the joke as they read it,” Price said.

However, if he were asked beforehand not to read it, Price said he would have followed that request.

Martin said educators must be extremely careful in what they say and do “especially in the presence of our impressionable children.”

“Yet, Mr. Price saw nothing wrong with reading a book that trivialized and made light of a character pulling its pants down, having others paint its nude buttocks and depicting an adult’s nude buttocks,” she said.

Elizabeth Maron, attorney for the school administration, asked whether Price was OK with reading books with students showing their private parts and encouraging students to copy that behavior or use language about butts or farts. He said no.

Price said his teaching and administrative style incorporates play and silliness, which are ways to engage students in learning. He has done other things, like rap in a series of videos to teach students vocabulary, he said.

This isn’t the first time Price has read silly books. He read the sequel to “I Need a New Butt!” in May 2020 for a virtual reading that was posted on the school’s Facebook page.

Martin noted that Price, in a March 1 statement, apologized for “poor judgment” in reading the book. But since then, Price has told reporters he believed in the appropriateness of the book, Martin said.

Price also has said he has never been disciplined, “not even for being late.” But, Martin said, during the hearing a prior employer said Price was not going to be offered a contract to return to Rankin County School District as a principal or in any other position and that he had resigned to avoid non-renewal of his contract.

Price said his decision to move to Hinds County schools was for his children. Joel Dillard, Price’s attorney, argued a non-renewal of contract doesn’t necessarily mean bad behavior by the educator.

Price has been an educator for two decades. He held the post at Gary Road Elementary for three years.

Martin said parents, not schools, should make decisions about when or how to talk to children about body parts or bodily functions.

“Educators who do not understand the significance of what they say and do in the presence of young, impressionable children, and who are not willing to take responsibility for their actions, cannot be a part of the education team that is responsible for educating our young children,” Martin said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Gabby Petito's mother Nichole Schmidt, wipes a tear from her face during a news conference o...

Associated Press

Mother of man who killed Gabby Petito said in letter she would help son ‘dispose of a body’

The mother of the man who killed Gabby Petito told her son in an undated letter that she would “dispose of a body” if needed because she loved him so much, according to copies of the note shared publicly for the first time this week by attorneys for Petito's parents.

2 days ago

A member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard, places flags in front of e...

Associated Press

5 things to know about Memorial Day including its controversies

Memorial Day is supposed to be about mourning the nation’s fallen service members, but it’s come to anchor the unofficial start of summer and a long weekend of discounts on anything from mattresses to lawn mowers.

2 days ago

FILE - This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, left, as he test...

Associated Press

Officers describe chaos, fear on Jan. 6 as judge weighs prison time for Oath Keepers’ Rhodes

Police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and public servants who fled the mob's attack told a judge on Wednesday that they are still haunted by what they endured, as the judge prepares to hand down sentences in a landmark Capitol riot case.

3 days ago

Pride month merchandise is displayed at the front of a Target store in Hackensack, N.J., Wednesday,...

Associated Press

Target on the defensive after removing LGBTQ+-themed products

Target once distinguished itself as being boldly supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.

4 days ago

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)...

Associated Press

Former Arizona television journalist announces bid for Schweikert’s US House seat

A former Phoenix television journalist announced her candidacy Wednesday for the congressional seat currently held by seven-term Republican Rep. David Schweikert.

4 days ago

Tortoise by Henry Davis earned an honorable mention in the "Adventures in Nature” student photo c...

Associated Press

When you adopt a desert tortoise, prepare for a surprisingly social and zippy pet

They’re not fluffy, they don’t play fetch and they certainly don’t roll over. But there is such a thing as a lap tortoise.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DAY & NIGHT AIR CONDITIONING, HEATING AND PLUMBING

Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]

...

OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

How to identify the symptoms of 3 common anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be debilitating and cause significant stress for those who suffer from the condition.

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...

Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.

School leader fired for reading ‘New Butt’ book awaits fate