LOGAN, Utah — 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.
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.
A few days after the Dec. 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.
Deputies showed some of the images to prosecutors, who decided they were not pornography, Jenson said.
The Cache County School District declined to comment, saying it’s a personnel matter.
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.
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 and said he simply explained the human body is often portrayed in art displayed in museums.
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.
“She was just very upset that her teacher was in trouble,” Jensen said.