Professionally Outraged

It’s the nightmare of every teacher who teaches in the arts: getting fired over artistic work you pursue outside of the classroom.

An art teacher in Virginia was fired recently for his extracurricular artistic endeavors. Granted, he painted with his *ass*. However, I found his work to be tasteful and interesting. Furthermore, he took sufficient steps to keep his artwork separate from his teaching, using a pseudonym instead of his real name, and refraining from discussing it in his class. Apparently that wasn’t enough. Someone found a video he had appeared in on YouTube, which showed his technique in applying paint to his backside (and other body parts) and using it to create paintings. The video was linked to the teacher, and according to the school officials who fired him, the existence of the video created such disruption in the school that the teacher was suspended and eventually fired.

The teacher is now suing, claiming his dismissal violated his First Amendment rights. I say, good for him! In my mind, he has done nothing wrong. His art is not crass or vulgar, despite the method chosen. He did not bring his activities into the classroom. In fact, he was awarded teacher of the year in 2002. I would say, more likely than violation of freedom of expression, he should aim for wrongful dismissal from his employment. But perhaps that doesn’t pay as much, and we all know that if you’re going to sue someone, you might as well go for the big bucks.

If you’d like to see examples of the art created by the teacher in question, just click here: Butt Print Art.

Now comes the personal side of my argument. I teach music, in K-2 and high school. One of these days I swear I really am going to get out and start singing in bars and clubs. Am I going to have to censor my choices of songs and/or venues for fear of losing my day job? I don’t live in the same town where I teach (thankfully!), but I teach in a small, highly conservative town.

Being a professional singer has always been my big dream, but it sure doesn’t pay the bills right now. I think a part of me has always been holding back on pursuing that goal, out of concern as to how it might affect my teaching career. I used to think I was just being silly at best, or paranoid at worst. Now my concerns are validated. Just how much do I want to put to the test here?