Earlier this month, on Read Across America Day (2 March), students aged six and seven from Hinds County were waiting for a school administrator to read something to them, as reported by the New York Times.
The administrator couldn't attend, so Toby Price, an assistant principal in his office at Gary Road Elementary School, stepped up to the plate.
He grabbed the I Need a New Butt! book, written by Dawn McMillan, and read to roughly 240 children.
The book is for readers aged four and eight and is about a boy who is determined to find a new bottom after seeing a crack in his buttocks which makes him think that it's broken.
Price has been teaching for 20 years and said that the district superintendent, Delesicia Martin, called him into the office to tell him that he was being placed on leave.
And a couple of days later, Price said that he was accused of breaking the Mississippi Educator Code of Ethics and was subsequently fired.
"I expected a write-up. I did not expect to get terminated. I cried the entire way home," Price told the Times.
Did I want to be in the New York Times one day? Yes! For my kids book, comics, or Grog the Zombie videos. But here we are\u2026https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/11/us/toby-price-mississippi.html?smid=url-share&fbclid=IwAR35NHqQMhrFgiwMEef4teStAp3vTNoyEKYzEs45Fc1PU-3mlAHaGAzoUgI\u00a0\u2026
Within a letter to Price, the superintendent reportedly called the book inappropriate and pointed to references of flatulence and noted that it "described butts in various colors shapes and sizes."
Price also told the outlet that school officials feared parents complaining and Martin said he'd been "unprofessional".
Price also told the Times that he had a lawyer and would be fighting this case.
On Thursday, the authors' organization PEN America also joined in on the discourse and urged the school officials to reverse their decision.
"In positioning the act of reading a book as a violation of ethics, the district is implying that any educator could be terminated under similar circumstances, whenever an anonymous source feels a book read to students is "inappropriate" for any reason. Such a precedent could be readily abused, enforced with unbridled discretion to censor the reading of books in schools," the organisation said in a press release.
Price further told the Times that literacy instruction was important at his school in a county where more than 21 per cent live under the poverty line.
"I am a firm believer that reluctant readers need the silly, funny books to hook them in," Price said.
He also has three children of his own to support, he said, two of which have severe autism.
"I'm tired. I'm stressed. I'm overwhelmed. I need to work."
Despite the unfortunate circumstance, Price did receive support on social media from families, including messages on the school's Facebook page.
"Educators have been heroes over these last few years. I really hope Toby Price is re-hired, is reimbursed for back pay, and issues an apology for "a misunderstanding" about the book. My hope is that administrators made a snap decision based on the book title and that reading it would make them realize their error. Could they really find this book harmful?" one commenter wrote.
Indy100 reached out to Hinds County School District for comment.
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