A Utah art teacher fired after students saw European paintings depicting nudity in his class claims he was wrongly terminated.
The elementary school teacher in Hyrum, some 80 miles north of Salt Lake City, said the art that led to a classroom pornography complaint belonged to the school's library before he ever worked there, Utah's The Herald Journal reported .
Mateo Rueda concluded a Dec. 4 lesson at Lincoln Elementary School by letting sixth graders sift through a set of about 100 cards featuring famous artworks — about three or four of which, unbeknownst to him, portrayed nudity, he told the newspaper.
Alongside well-known pieces such as Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers were a few prints of works such as Francois Boucher's Odalisque, an 18th-century partial nude of a woman lounging, Rueda said.
"To my surprise, some of the postcards contained nudity," Rueda explained in a message posted to Facebook. "Some students expressed discomfort about some of the images, so I immediately took back from students the postcards I felt could make students feel uncomfortable."
The teacher encouraged the students to discuss the paintings with their parents, according to Salt Lake City's Fox 13 News. He later learned of some parents contacting the school in protest, as well as a pornography complaint to the county sheriff's office.
“We got some of the pictures and showed them to the County Attorney’s Office, and they said these wouldn’t meet the definition of pornography," Cache County Sheriff Chad Jensen told the Journal . "They declined to file charges.”
Still, Rueda was terminated on the following Friday after declining to resign, he said. He said he planned to appeal the termination.
Rueda and the sheriff's office estimated the set of cards was purchased by the school about three years ago, according to Fox 13.
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