The One Word That Got This Teacher Fired Will Make You Wonder What Year It Is

April 27th 2016

Lucy Tiven

The reason one substitute art teacher says she was fired from a Michigan middle school is spurring a major conversation about censorship and public education.

The substitute teacher, Allison Wint, was teaching a lesson on 20th century artist Georgia O'Keeffe — who is well known for her bold, abstract paintings of flowers that appear obviously similar to female genitalia — and told local news station WWMT that she was fired for using the word "vagina" in the classroom.

Wint had taught at Harper Creek Middle School since the beginning of the year, and told the Detroit Free Press that she had hoped to lead the eighth grade class in a productive discussion about O'Keeffe's work and its widely recognized erotic connotations.

“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 school's administration did not respond well, according to Wint. She told the Detroit Free Press that principal Kim Thayer approached her the following day and said that using the word "without previous approval" was a violation of school policy. In an interview with WWMT, Wint alleged that she was unaware that Harper Creek Community Schools required teachers to get approval in order to discuss reproductive health in the classroom. “If I had known about the policy, I would’ve never done it without approval,” she said.

Michigan Democratic state representative Lisa Brown found Wint's predicament particularly relatable. In 2012, Brown was banned from speaking on the floor during an abortion debate for using the word "vagina." Brown tweeted about the story on Tuesday:

ATTN: reached out to Harper Creek Community Schools for comment and will update this post when we hear back.

A Harper Creek Community Schools representative told the Cut:

“We are aware of the allegations that controversial subject matter resulted in a substitute teacher, employed through a third party agency, not being invited back for further service. This is not the case. We do not shy away from controversial issues. The District did have concerns that the substitute teacher did not follow district art curriculum. These concerns, in addition to other failures, were the basis for the determination.”

[h/t the Cut]