The featured photo is a screenshot from the excellent YouTube video by Lindsay Out Loud, who expertly read this book aloud on YouTube.
Educator and father, Toby Rice, used to be the assistant principal at Gary Roads Elementary School in Hinds County, Mississippi. Today, he’s no longer employed at the school. What caused Rice to lose his job? He ran afoul of the district superintendent, Delesicia Martin, who took exception to Rice’s decision to read what she considered an “inappropriate” book to a bunch of second graders.
The trouble started on March 2, 2022. It was Read Across America week, and in honor of the annual event, approximately 240 second graders in Hinds County were to be read a book by one of the school administrators. But the administrator who was supposed to read to the kids had forgotten it was her turn to read aloud on Zoom. So Toby Rice, who has twenty years of experience as an educator, filled in at the last minute. He read Dawn McMillan’s 2012 book, “I Need a New Butt!”
Mr. Rice had read the book at a previous school where he had been principal. The father of three also read it to his own children, who counted the book as one of their favorites. The kids who heard Mr. Rice read “I Need a New Butt” in Hinds County were also delighted by the book, which is about a boy who decides he needs a new butt after seeing that his butt has a crack in it and thinking it’s broken.
Sadly, humor challenged administrators in Hinds County were offended by Price’s book choice for the literacy promotion event. Fifteen minutes after Mr. Price read the book to the kids, he was called to his principal’s office. The principal told Price that he shouldn’t have read that book and that parents would probably complain. And then, Price was told that the superintendent wanted to see Price “immediately”. According to the Washington Post:
“They kind of just let me have it,” Price said. “She said, ‘Is this the kind of thing you find funny and silly? Fart and butt and bulletproof butts?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I did until I walked in.’ ”
Two days later, Mr. Price was fired. According to the termination letter Mr. Price received from the evidently “butthurt” school superintendent, Delescia Martin, Mr. Price violated the Mississippi Educator Code of Ethics, Standards of Conduct. Below is a screenshot of the portion Mr. Price’s termination letter regarding why he was fired. The entire letter can be found here.
Regular readers know that I don’t have children. I also don’t live in Mississippi. I would not choose to live in Mississippi, because it is a place consistently placed at the BOTTOM (see what I did there) of many important “quality of life” listings. Public school education is one area where Mississippi regularly ranks at the BOTTOM. According to the US News and World Report, Mississippi is DEAD LAST in state healthcare rankings. Given that Mississippi is often placed “dead ass last” in so many “quality of life” rankings, is it any wonder that a superintendent would get sand in her undies over an educator reading a book that mentions farts and butt cracks? Of course, opinions are like assholes; everybody has one, and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks. But I am of the opinion that Mississippi is close to the “bowels” of the United States, and “shitty” news stories like this one do little to sway my views.
Something really stinks about this…
I am a big fan of “inappropriate humor”, so if I had children who attended school in Hinds County, I would probably routinely “crack” lots of jokes about butts. I mean– it’s “HINDS County”, for pity’s sake. Where else would it be so funny to read a children’s book about butts? But in all seriousness, as Mr. Rice pointed out, there are a lot of “reluctant readers” in that county. According to Data USA, there are also a lot of poor people in Hinds County. In 2019, 21.3% of the county’s residents lived at or below the poverty line. Mr. Price said that a lot of students in Hinds County rely on free or reduced price school lunches, which makes teaching literacy especially important.
Many kids LOVE funny books with inappropriate “body” humor in them. A book like “I Need a New Butt” might be just the thing a young, beginner, “reluctant reader” needs to get hooked on reading, instead of more harmful things, like drugs and alcohol. Moreover, the book is marketed for children between the ages of 6 and 10. Second graders are usually about 7 years old, so this book was written expressly for them.
It sounds to me like the administrators in Hinds County allowed their personal preferences to dictate what is, and what is not, appropriate reading material for children. This book is very popular, and is used by educators and parents all over the country and, in fact, even worldwide. Below is a video posted by The Scottish Granny, who is reading a slightly altered version of Dawn McMillan’s book titled “I Need a New Bum”.
We’re living in very serious times right now. We could all use a good laugh. Kids today have to face so many awful things– war, pandemics, political nightmares, school shootings, inflation, and the list goes on and on. Do the administrators of Hinds County really believe that reading a funny book about butts– which EVERYONE can relate to, because we all poop and fart, and the vast majority of us have cracks in our butts– is the worst thing a teacher or school administrator can do? Can Hinds County really AFFORD to lose an experienced educator who cares about children as much as Mr. Price obviously does?
Delescia Martin and her ilk may be educators, but I really think firing Mr. Price was a very shortsighted and decidedly *uneducated* decision. Now, if Mr. Price had read a book like Beavis and Butt-head’s This Book Sucks to the children, I might be more understanding about the decision to fire him for being “inappropriate”. But lots of excellent children’s books are about universal experiences that we all face– even unpleasant or unsavory topics like pooping and farting. Remember the popular children’s book, Everyone Poops? It was marketed to children aged 0 to 3 and is highly regarded as an excellent book for teaching potty training. As a matter of fact, a quick look at Amazon shows me that there are many other children’s books about pooping available. I don’t see how Dawn McMillan’s funny book about needing a new butt because of a “crack” in it is any more scandalous than a book like “It Hurts When I Poop”, by Howard J. Bennett, MD and illustrated by M.S. (Michael) Weber. And yet, that book also gets high marks from (probably) very grateful parents who use them to teach their children about life.
I read today that Mr. Price has retained a lawyer and will be fighting to get his job back. There is an appeal hearing scheduled for March 21, and a GoFundMe campaigned has raised over $100,000 to help Mr. Price plead his case to get reinstated. Above is one grandmother’s post on Gary Roads Elementary School’s Facebook page. Obviously, a lot of parents and grandparents are concerned and involved; quite a few of them would like to see the assistant principal be rehired. I would certainly hope that other school districts have taken notice of this case, especially if they need an experienced and dedicated educator who obviously knows and cares what children like. My many teacher friends tell me that teaching has been especially difficult lately, and a lot of well-trained and talented people are leaving the profession or not going into teaching at all. I’ll ask again. Can Hinds County really afford to lose Mr. Price?
Between this story and the one involving McMinn County in Tennessee and their stupid decision to ban the excellent book, Maus, I’m actually feeling kind of glad I don’t have any children to worry about. But I do have stepgrandchildren now, I really hope the education administrators in the United States remove their heads from their asses before younger daughter’s children begin their educational careers. And I’m also glad that I, myself, grew up in a less ridiculous time. I feel like a lot of people in the United States could collectively use a mental enema.