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Embattled Irving ISD teacher is permanently out after rainbow sticker dispute

Supporters rally in support of former Irving Macarthur High School teacher Rachel Stonecipher. The English and journalism teacher was suspended last fall after putting up rainbow stickers and fired by the Irving School Baord earlier this week.
Bill Zeeble
Rachel Stonecipher (center) talks with supporters who rallied on her behalf. The former Irving Macarthur High School teacher was suspended last fall after putting up rainbow stickers. School trustees fired her this week.

Embattled Irving ISD teacher Rachel Stonecipher, who was suspended after posting rainbow stickers in support of LGBTQ students, won't be returning to the district. School board trustees are not renewing her contract.

Stonecipher said she felt the stickers helped empower the often-bullied LGBTQ students she worked with. She was one of several advisors for the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and also advised students who wrote for the school newspaper.

The school removed the rainbow stickers, saying the district insisted on viewpoint-neutral classroom decorations.

At the time, Irving ISD said it feared the stickers could make straight students feel unsafe. It removed them, adding in a statement “The District’s protocols are viewpoint neutral and apply to all classroom decorations.”

Stonecipher didn’t buy the argument then or now.

Those stickers,” she said, “were not endangering students. We have no evidence ever that they endangered or made students feel unsafe, ever. What did feel unsafe was when they came down.”

KERA repeatedly requested comment from the district and school district trustees. A statement received late Friday afternoon from the district said that the school board voted on "both renewals and terminations" of contracts at its meeting Monday.

"These Board votes impact contracts for the 2022-2023 school year. No teacher contracts were terminated with immediate effect."

Stonecipher said her current contract for the 2021-2022 school year goes through August. She said it was unclear if she would continue to be paid through August.

More than a dozen people spoke on Stonecipher's behalf at Monday's school board meeting. All the speakers demanded Stonecipher get her job back.

"Back in October, when I thought if we stick up for ourselves, maybe we can change the way things are happening. And wow, was I wrong," 15-year-old sophomore Lola Dempsey said.

Before the meeting began, more than 30 supporters rallied on her behalf in the Irving ISD administration parking lot. They held signs reading "Support inclusive teachers" and "Firing excellent teachers is the wrong lesson."

James Whitfield spoke at the rally. The former Colleyville principal, who is Black, resigned his post after he was accused of teaching critical race theory, which is not a part of any Texas high school curriculum.

He said his case and Stonecipher's were similar.

Stonecipher said she was put on leave a second time on on April 14 at the school where she'd been reassigned. She said she wasn’t told why, but was curious since she was already leaving in August. That, she said, was when her contract was supposed to end.

“I have been in touch with my lawyers,” Stonecipher said. “I believe I will bring a lawsuit on the topic of employment discrimination.”

Anticipating her departure, she has been looking for a job as a writer, because that’s one of her other loves. She’d even like to work in a school setting, in a communications department. But this time, she said, she’ll bypass K-12 education, looking instead for work in a college or university.

Got a tip? Email Reporter Bill Zeeble at . You can follow him on Twitter @bzeeble.

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Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.