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censorship(?)

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From: Chris Allred (callred_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Mon Jul 09 2001 - 10:21:01 PDT


Hi everybody. Since school let out for the summer, I've been doing some reflection about the school year behind me. It was my first year as a teacher, and one incident still troubles me. I would like to get some opinions... I hung a show of my student's paintings and included one painting that included some text in the image. The text was a poem about the student coming to terms with the fact that he is gay and in each stanza of the poem he is having a different conversation with an important person in his life (parent, lover, creator). There was nothing explicit in the poem, only the subject matter. About 3 days after the show was hung, some of my students told me that there was a big crowd gathered around the painting. I went to see what all the commotion was about only to find out that the principal had already removed the painting from the show without even discussing it with me. Apparently a couple of football players had taken offense to the painting and were threatening to tear it down. When I spoke with him, the principal told me that he took the painting down to "protect" the student who had painted it from being hassled or threatened at school. To me, this seemed like we were violating this student's right to free expression because we were concerned about the behavior of others towards him. Sort of a "Don't wear your skirt so short, or you might get attacked" attitude... I was very angry over both the way the situation was handled and the fact that the student was not allowed an avenue to express himself. I would like to know what you folks think... Thanks.

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