A substitute teacher says she was relieved from her duties just for uttering the word “vagina” in front of class in Michigan Middle School. She was teaching art history when the incident occurred.
The school administrators have rejected her claims but refused to disclose the circumstances, saying there were other policy breach they can’t specify, Lansing State Journal reported.
Allison Wint, who had been teaching art at Harper Creek Middle School in Battle Creek since January, says she was hoping to have meaningful conversations with the class of eighth graders, but to her surprise the school officials said she was violating school policies.
“I thought if I used a euphemism, that would make it into a joke,” Wint said. “And I don’t think that’s a word you should be afraid of.”
The controversial lecture session took place on Thursday. Wint was teaching about two dozen eighth graders. She had started speaking about the broader topic of controversy in art when the discussions inclined towards reproductions of paintings by Georgia O’Keefe, some of which have been portrayed as erotic.
During the elaborate discussion with her students, Wint remembers making the following statement at some point
“Imagine walking into a gallery when (O’Keefe) was first showing her pieces, and thinking, ‘Am I actually seeing vaginas here, am I a pervert? I’m either a pervert or this woman was a pervert.’ “
She confessed that she used the word “more than ten times,” but they were not intended to be vulgar. She also added that students giggled a lot during the class, which she expected, but she took pride that they learned a lot and the class was quite productive for the students.
In the response to her claim, Harper Creek Superintendent Rob Ridgeway told the Free Press on Wednesday that Wint was actually fired for deviating from the curriculum and not informing the principal beforehand that she would be discussing controversy in art.
He also added she was also fired for other policy violations but refused to go on details.
“She was not terminated due to uttering the word ‘vagina,’ ” Ridgeway added. And in a statement he noted: “We do not shy away from controversial issues…We work very diligently to ensure that all students, staff and contracted personnel are treated fairly with respect and privacy.”
The school principal Kim Thayer did not sympathize with Wint either. According to Wint, the very next day after the incident, she approached Wint before class and said that she had used the word “vagina … without previous approval.”
“She said there are a thousand other ways to teach controversy, and that it was inappropriate,” Wint added.
According to Wint, Thayer ordered her to pack her bags and leave in an hour. Wint is now searching for a new job.
Wint says she misses her students as she was “really invested with those kids”.
Wint says this is the first time she had been subjected to any kind of disciplinary actions. The most serious trouble she could remember came after she hung a sign behind her desk made by one of her students. The sign read “Marriage is about love, not gender.” She said she was told to take the sign down by the principal.
While other school officials could not be reached, they told the TV station WWMT that teachers must get approval before discussing reproductive health and provided a matching page from a school policy guidebook, 13WMAZ reported.
“Being afraid of the word … creates an aura of shame around the body part,” Wint said.
Wint notes that her contract as a substitute teacher meant that she could be let go for virtually any reason.
[Photo By Alison Wint]