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The Butt of Contention

May a school district discipline a teacher for his off-duty "cheeky creations"? At Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer, Michael Fox takes up this question in the odd case of a Virginia art teacher whose unusual forte is butt art. Fox's post was prompted by an Associated Press report about teacher Stephen Murmer. As AP described it:

"Outside of class and under an alter ego, the self-proclaimed 'butt-printing artist' creates floral and abstract art by plastering his posterior and genitals with paint and pressing them against canvas. His cheeky creations sell for hundreds of dollars."

Murmer went to great lengths to keep his after-hours avocation hidden from his students, using an alias and appearing in disguise in photos and videos promoting his art. But after a video clip of Murmer's appearance on a cable TV talk show appeared on YouTube, it was not long before Murmer's students tuned in. School officials reacted by placing the teacher on administrative leave. Which brings us back to Fox, who says the situation raises very real questions of employment law:

"Although leading to all sorts of bad puns, 'cheeky creations' etc. it does raise a serious question about an employer's right to discipline for an employee's legal, if somewhat unusual, off-work behavior. The ACLU is looking at the case for Murmer."

As for Murmer's students, AP reports: "Most appeared to be firmly behind their teacher, describing his suspension as 'stupid,' 'ignorant' and 'kinda retarded.'"

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on December 14, 2006 at 05:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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