An assistant principal in Mississippi was fired after reading a children’s book about butts to a second-grade class.
Toby Price, who is now the former assistant principal at Gary Road Elementary School in Byram, Mississippi, read the book on March 2 while substituting for another principal that did not make it to the Zoom class.
According to CNN, Price improvised and took the closest book to him.
“Wasn’t a lot of thought put into it. I just grabbed a book that I had nearby that I knew that I loved, I thought the kids would like, and read it,” he told CNN.
The book that was deemed “inappropriate” by the Hinds County School District is called I Need a New Butt! It was written by Dawn McMillan and illustrated by Ross Kinnaird. The story follows a young boy that suddenly notices a huge crack in his butt and sets off to find a new one. The publisher of the book says it’s for children ages six to 10.
Unsurprisingly, the kids loved the silly book.
“They kept coming up to me and telling me how funny they thought it was,” Price said.
But that didn’t matter. Shortly after, Price was sent home for the day, suspended on administrative leave, according to PEN America, a literary organization that advocates for free speech.
He was called in for a disciplinary meeting on March 4, where he was forced to resign or be terminated immediately. Price chose not to resign because he felt that meant “almost saying they were right and you were wrong,” he told CNN.
A letter of termination from the school district outlined how Price violated the Mississippi Educator Code of Ethics, Standards of Conduct. It accused price of failing to demonstrate “professional standards” or maintain an environment free from “unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement,” reported CNN.
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The letter referenced specific phrases that Price read, like “farts” and “blew his butt apart and split it clean in two,” that contributed to his firing. They were also not pleased with the illustrations of the character’s naked butt shown.
Since his termination, the community has rallied around Price. PEN America wrote a letter to the officials of Hinds County School District, condemning their decision.
“Your decision to punish Mr. Price for reading this book is deeply concerning,” reads the letter. “Reading and sharing literature, even on silly topics, should be celebrated in public education, not become a cause for punishment.”
The advocacy group is urging people to sign the letter “Reading is not a crime.”
Price has also lawyered up. Joel Dillard, a Mississippi employment lawyer, is representing the former assistant principal. According to Dillard, the story has garnered national attention, being featured on Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update.
Price, who is currently unemployed due to the termination, has started a GoFundMe to help pay the bills while he looks for another job.
“I have two kids with autism and another BPD,” wrote Price in the campaign description. “We are overwhelmed by the support. We set the original goal thinking only family and friends would be helping. With your support we can now afford to pay the attorney, pay our mortgage, and even the kids medicines.”
As of Wednesday, the campaign has raised over $100,000.