A Utah art teacher was fired amid complaints that images of classical paintings containing nudity were passed out in a classroom and seen by sixth-graders, a newspaper reported.
Mateo Rueda said he wasn’t aware that a set of educational postcards from the elementary school library contained a few works depicting nudity when he handed them out during a lesson, the Herald Journal newspaper said Thursday.
The two images seen by students were the Impressionist-era portrait Iris Tree by Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani and the Rococo-style partial nude Odalisque by 18th-century artist Francois Boucher, the teacher said.
Mateo Rueda was fired from Lincoln Elementary School in Hyrum after showing two classical paintings containing nudity to his students on December 4
The Rococo-style partial nude Odalisque by 18th-century artist Francois Boucher was one of the paintings
Also included in The Art Box are Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, as well as work from Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Klee, Claude Monet and more.
He removed the cards when they made students uncomfortable, the paper reported.
‘This is not material at all that I would use. I had no idea,’ Rueda said.
He said he has requested a hearing and plans to appeal his termination to clear his reputation.
The Impressionist-era portrait Iris Tree by Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani, was the other
A few days after the December 4 lesson, police went to Lincoln Elementary School in Hyrum, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) north of Salt Lake City, to investigate a complaint that Rudea was showing pornography to students.
Cache County deputies found Principal Jeni Buist shredding postcards – at the request of the school district – that contained nudity, said Sheriff Chad Jensen.
‘She said she was putting the postcards and paintings in the shredder at the request of the school district so they wouldn’t be distributed again,’ Sheriff Chad Jensen said.
‘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. They declined to file charges.’
The Cache County School District declined to comment, saying it’s a personnel matter.
Parent Venessa Rose Pixton said she’s upset because Rueda’s handling of the situation belittled students, including her 11-year-old son.
‘He said Mr. Mateo even told the class ‘There’s nothing wrong with female nipples. You guys need to grow up and be mature about this,” Pixton said.
Rueda denied making that statement.
Cache County deputies found Principal Jeni Buist shredding postcards – at the request of the school district – that contained nudity
‘No, that did not happen,’ he said to the Herald Journal.
‘I did say that when you grow up, you’re going to find yourselves going to museums or to places where unavoidably there’s going to be nudity.’
Some parents are supporting Rueda.
Kamee Jensen wrote a letter to the Herald Journal defending him and said her daughter wasn’t offended by the pictures.
‘The school sent out an email to parents asking if children were upset by what happened in class. I asked my daughter if she ever felt uncomfortable, and she said no. She was just very upset that her teacher was in trouble,’ Jensen said.
‘She was just very upset that her teacher was in trouble,’ Jensen said.
Rueda wrote to Jensen that after the December 4 class, Buist emailed him concerned about the parent’s anger over the situation and told him that he would be on a one-day administrative absence.
After the police visit on Friday, Rueda was told that he was fired
That Wednesday, the teacher with Buist and the district’s human resources director, Kirk McRae, where he was informed he’d be suspended two more days and signing an agreement that he wouldn’t let that occur again.
After the police visit on Friday, Rueda was told that he was fired.
‘In a Friday meeting, they gave me two choices: to resign, accepting their terms of my alleged wrongdoing (eliminating any possibility to voice my opinion in the future), or to be terminated with a scathing and defamatory letter. Frankly, neither option was agreeable to me,’ Rueda added. He plans to appeal the decision.
The Colombia, Utah, native came to the area to pursue a master’s degree in fine art at Utah State University. He’s established himself in the community for six years, through painting exhibits and established connections.
‘I’ve worked professionally and very well with a lot of people. A lot of people know me and know my character. The terms of termination are belittling of my character, and to that end they are a defamation of character,’ he added.
‘My intent when it comes to the hearing has noting to do money or anything like that, but it has to do with exercising my right to be heard so that I can have a clean name, a clean reputation. … This could be something that follows me for the rest of my life.’