PUBLISHED: 21:12 EST, 27 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:15 EST, 27 August 2012
- Robert Duncan, 52, was fired on August 6 from Boyet Junior High School in Slidell, Louisiana
- Hung political cartoons created by his eighth-grade students in a hallway in January
- Duncan and other teachers claim the drawing of the apparent bullet hole was not in the poster when it went on display
- Political cartoons are considered appropriate under state curricula
Controversial: Teacher Robert Duncan was fired after displaying cartoons created by his students, including this one depicting President Obama with what appears to be a bullet hole in his temple
A junior high school teacher from a small town in Louisiana is fighting to get his job back after getting fired for displaying controversial political cartoons depicting President Barack Obama drawn by his students.
Robert Duncan, 52, was ousted from Boyet Junior High School in Slidell earlier this month after hanging up student artworks submitted as part of a lesson on political cartoons in January in the hallway outside his classroom.
One of the cartoons appears to portray the president with a bullet hole in his head, while another implies that it was Obama hunting season.
A concerned parent who saw the pictures and found them to be violent and incendiary photographed them on her cell phone and released the images to the media, setting off a firestorm that may have played a role in Duncan’s eventual dismissal.
U.S. Secret Service agents visited two of the junior high students to investigate if they or their parents posed a real threat to Obama, and in the aftermath of the picture controversy, Duncan was placed on paid administrative leave for six months, AOL reported.
On August 6, School Superintendent Trey Folse officially dismissed the eighth-grade teacher from Boyet, where he had spent 13 years teaching.
During a wrongful termination hearing on Wednesday, Folse testified that Duncan was let go for ‘making a bad, incompetent’ decision by posting the ‘violent’ pictures, as well as for dishonesty.
Lesson learned: Duncan gave his eighth-grade class an assignment to draw political cartoons, and among the submitted works was this poster implying that it was Obama hunting season
Media firestorm: A parent who visited the school in February noticed the cartoons hanging on the wall and became concerned, snapping photos of them with her cell phone which she then released to the media
But about two dozen of Duncan’s former colleagues at the school came to his defense, saying that political cartoons was an entirely appropriate – and even recommended – assignment for an eighth-grade class.
‘I did not see the element of racism,’ social studies teacher Mark Selzer told CNN. ‘I saw political points of view being expressed, whether pro-Obama or anti-Obama, and that’s what the lesson was designed to do.’
Duncan’s defense team had several Boyet teachers acknowledge that they too had used political cartoons as part of their curriculum in the past, the Times Picayune reported.
The lawyers also pointed out that textbooks and state-mandated assessments all ‘adopted and approved by the St. Tammany Parish School Board’ endorsed student learning through political cartoons.
The fired teacher insisted that the apparent bullet hole depicted in one of the drawings was not there when he hung it in the hallway, and seven of his former co-workers backed his version of events.
He said, she said: Duncan, center, insisted that the apparent bullet hole drawing was not there when he hung the poster, although his student made a statement contradicting the teacher’s claim
‘That mark was not on that poster; I swear to God. Nobody could have missed that. There would have been hundreds of students saying things about that,’ long-time Boyet teacher Beth Kurz tearfully testified.
However, the amateur artist responsible for the poster claimed that the alleged entry wound in the president’s right temple was the result of a marker that had been inadvertently dropped.
The mishap took place the night before the assignment was due, and she had no time to fix it, the unnamed eighth-grader wrote in a letter read during the hearing, so she submitted it as is.
Support group: Some two dozen teachers at Boyet Junior High School in Slidell signed a letter vouching for their former colleague and asking that he be reinstated
The final day of the three-day hearing was supposed to take place on Monday, but was postponed indefinitely due to Tropical Storm Isaac barreling towards Louisiana.
When the appeals panel does reach a decision in Duncan’s case, it will only serve as a recommendation intended to guide the superintendent.