The athletic director of Mission Prep said she won’t allow anti-gay vandalism to control her life even though she moved out of her Pismo Beach home at the urging of police for her protection.
Bailey Brown has opted to stay with friends rather than find a new home as a further safety precaution.
In making her first public comments since she was initially threatened in the spring, Brown made it clear in her interview with The Tribune this week that she’s speaking as a private citizen and not in an official capacity as the private school’s athletic director.
Brown said she vowed not to let “ignorance, intolerance, stupidity and hate control me.”
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The San Luis Obispo Police Department and the FBI are looking into three vandalism incidents involving graffiti near Brown’s home and work.
The first two clearly targeted her and are being considered hate crimes while the most recent is less clear, police said, noting that it may be related. No suspects have been identified.
“These hateful people have decimated my confidence of everyday life,” Brown said. “Nothing is the same anymore. Being stalked, bullied, threatened, your property viciously attacked, your workplace violated, because of your private life? This is completely unacceptable.”
In April, Brown’s Ford Escort, parked outside her home in Pismo Beach, was keyed and spray-painted with the phrase “We (heart) r Role Models,” and her tires were punctured.
Then in May, four separate areas of the Mission Prep campus were vandalized with phrases targeting her sexual orientation. A printed note was left at the door of the school’s administration building as well.
Most recently, on the morning of Sept. 8, Brown said she went to work and discovered a graffiti note scrawled on the wall of a campus building that read “I (heart) Gays” with the signature “Tax.”
It’s unclear what “Tax” refers to specifically.
All three incidents took place overnight and were discovered in the morning. Police say the tag signature of “Tax” was left elsewhere around Santa Rosa Park in San Luis Obispo in recent weeks but without any additional messages attached to the name.
The graffiti at Mission Prep was quickly painted over Sept. 8 by school staff after it was reported to police, said Lt. Jeff Smith of the San Luis Obispo Police Department.
The FBI has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the individual targeting Brown.Brown was hired by Mission Prep in 2011 from a pool of 100 applicants.
She said she has enjoyed working with student athletes and coaches at the high school and that she can’t think of anyone at her school or in her personal life who might want to threaten her.
“Just like all educators, I don’t bring my personal life into my professional life,” Brown said. “Being gay is not a part of what I do. It’s who I am.”
School spokesman Warren Hoy said school officials “support Bailey entirely” and believe she’s doing a “great job and she’s here to stay.”
But job security doesn’t mean this has been easy for Brown to handle. She wanted to speak out publicly partly to “help others in our community who have been victims” of hate, she said. “This is my journey and I hope that I can help others to stand up when it feels like it’s too much to handle.”
Brown said that since police advised her to move out of her home in Pismo Beach, she has lived in different friends’ homes because she doesn’t feel comfortable settling into a new residence.
Brown called herself an outwardly tough person, but said she has sought advice on how to cope with her situation, including spending time with local attorney Jennifer Alton.
Alton, who was connected with Brown through a friend, said that she’s not acting as Brown’s attorney but offering personal support and guidance.
“She has handled this difficult circumstance with extraordinary courage,” Alton said. “Naturally, I want those responsible for this crime to be held accountable. I also believe this matter presents an opportunity for the community to come together and have a peaceful dialogue about tolerance.”
Hoy, Mission Prep’s spokesman, said the school is taking security measures to help protect Brown but wouldn’t go into detail to best protect her.
He added that the school has used the incidents as a “teaching opportunity” for students.
Principal J.D. Childs has addressed students at an assembly by saying tolerance and inclusiveness must be a part of the campus community and teachers have spoken to students in class about acceptance of all people. Students have also created posters in support of Brown this year.
“I’m blessed with beautiful friends and want to thank the people most close to me that give me strength every single day to fight this to the end,” Brown said.