A teacher in Hyrum, Utah, was fired after she showed classical paintings to her fifth and sixth-grade class. The problem stemmed from the contents of the art, as the paintings contained nudity.
Mateo Rueda showed the images in a classroom setting, which included a set of educational postcards from the school’s library. At least two of the works contained nudity. The former art teacher at Lincoln Elementary plans to appeal the termination and clear his reputation, according to FOX13.
The two images which the teacher says caused the uproar were an Impressionist-era portrait “Iris Tree” by Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani and the Rococo-style partial nude “Odalisque” by 18th-century artist Francois Boucher.
Rueda himself told the news station that he was “surprised about those images being there,” but he said he’d removed the educational postcards he felt were inappropriate for the students and told the students to bring him any material he’d missed.
One of Rueda’s former students, fifth grader Bella Jensen, said Rueda told them the Dec. 4 lesson might make some feel uncomfortable. According to Bella, she enjoyed the project, although she and her friends thought some of the pictures were humorous.
Other students didn’t see it as a laughing matter, and felt the images were inappropriate.
“Children were expressing their discomfort and then explaining that they felt it was inappropriate,” Rueda said.
According to the news station: “The teacher attempted to explain the images were art and ‘encouraged’ the students to speak with their parents about the paintings they saw. The educator later found out one of the parents called the police claiming Rueda showed pornography to the students.”
What followed was Rueda’s termination, as the art teacher was given notice on Dec. 8 in which he was offered two choices: resign or be terminated under a set of conditions.
Bella’s mother, Kamee Jensen was so upset by Rueda’s firing that she wrote a letter to a news site defending him, indicating that her daughter wasn’t offended by the pictures.
“The images that he showed the children were provided by the school district,” Jensen said.
On the other side of the argument, one unidentified mother said she was “not happy with how Rueda handled his explanation with the kids.”
Rueda remains “bewildered” by the situation and says he doesn’t know if he can be hired back at the school.
The Cache County Sheriff’s Office said that after investigated the complaint, they found that the images were not considered pornography and did not press charges.
To follow is a news report about the incident, which includes some of the classical paintings that sparked the incident.
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