Update: Toby Price remains fired for what his district says was poor judgment in storytime choice. The assistant principal had appealed his termination for reading I Need a New Butt to second-graders at Gary Road Elementary School near Jackson, Miss., but on Monday, his legal team let him know the Hinds County School District was standing firm, claiming he'd violated the state's Educator Code of Ethics, reports the Guardian. "Mr. Price's contract should be terminated due to his incompetence, neglect of duty, and for good cause," read the district's report, per the Washington Post. A GoFundMe for him and his family has raised nearly $130,000 as of Thursday. He plans to appeal. Our original story from March 9 follows:
An assistant principal who read a children's book called I Need a New Butt to second-graders in Mississippi needs a new job. Toby Price says he was fired as assistant principal of Gary Road Elementary School in a Jackson suburb last week after he read the book to a Zoom class the principal had asked him to set up, NBC reports. He says he grabbed the book—a personal favorite—after a guest reader didn't show up and his boss told him to "go ahead and read." Price tells WLBT that he's read the "funny, silly" book to children at schools in other districts and that he's "never had an issue with it before."
The book by New Zealand author Dawn McMillan has a suggested reading age of 6 to 10 years old, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. A synopsis from the publisher: "A young boy suddenly notices a big problem—his butt has a huge crack! So he sets off to find a new one. Will he choose an armor-plated butt? A rocket butt? Find out in this quirky tale of a tail, which features hilarious rhymes and delightful illustration." Price's termination letter from the Hinds County School District superintendent states that the choice of book showed "a lack of professionalism and impaired judgment" and "unnecessary embarrassment." It's not clear who complained to education authorities about it.
Price tells WLBT that he was "blown away" by the "harsh reaction" from the district. "I've been in education for 20 years," he says. "I've never had a disciplinary anything put in my file." He says he hopes to get his job back. On social media, he's been getting support from librarians, teachers, and authors. Price says he had the book because he believes funny books play an important role in education. "If you don't let kids see funny and silly books, they're not going to stick around long enough to find out that books can be other things than funny and silly," he says. "You have to hook them with the funny and silly stuff." (Read more teacher firing stories.)