The assistant principal at a Mississippi elementary school was fired last week after he read the children's book "I Need a New Butt!" to a second-grade class.
Toby Price, who worked at Gary Road Elementary School in Byram, a suburb in metropolitan Jackson, said he was asked to set up a Zoom class for the kids.
Price said that when the principal didn't show up to the class as planned, he was instructed to read them a book.
"I text my boss, she said, 'Well, go ahead and read.' I wasn't planning on reading, but I went ahead and grabbed one of my books that I had nearby. One of my favorites. I read it: 'I Need a New Butt!' It's hilarious," he said in a phone call Wednesday.
Price, who was assistant principal at Gary Road for three years, said he used to read the book at his previous school and didn't think twice about sharing it with the second-graders.
"I never had an issue with it," he said. "It's just a fun, silly book."
Minutes after the class ended, Price said, he was called to the principal's office and told that parents might complain. He was told to report to the district office the same day and was sent home on administrative leave.
To his knowledge, no parents have complained about the book.
But the school took issue with it, telling Price that it was inappropriate because it used words like "butt" and "fart" and included cartoon images of a child's butt. NBC affiliate WLBT of Jackson reported that the superintendent of the Hinds County School District wrote in Price's termination letter that he showed "a lack of professionalism and impaired judgment" when he picked the book. For those reasons, he was fired.
The school district could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
"I Need a New Butt!," written by Dawn McMillan, is described as a children’s book. In it, a young child tries to find a new butt after he discovers his "has a huge crack," a description reads.
"Will he choose an armor-plated butt? A rocket butt? A robot butt? Find out in this quirky tale of a tail, which features hilarious rhymes and delightful illustrations," it reads. "Children and parents will love this book — no ifs, ands, or butts about it!"
McMillan directed questions to her publisher, Dover Publications, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Price said that the school's reaction was unwarranted and that silly books should be allowed.
"If I had to do it all over again, I'd still share the silly, funny books with the kids, because they need them. The world's a serious, harsh, dark place, and everybody needs a little bit of silly and a little bit of laughs every now and then," he said. "They just need that reminder that it's not all bad all the time."
Price plans to appeal his termination at a hearing scheduled for March 21.