Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Texas Art Teacher Fired After Kids Spot Nudity At Art Museum

The New York Times reported recently on art teacher Sydney McGee, who lost her job after taking fifth-grade students on a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art, where a student saw nudity somewhere in the collection and a parent subsequently complained.

Although the tour had been approved by the principal, and the 89 students were accompanied by 4 other teachers, at least 12 parents and a museum docent, Ms. McGee said, she was called to the principal the next day and “bashed.”

She later received a memorandum in which the principal, Nancy Lawson, wrote: “During a study trip that you planned for fifth graders, students were exposed to nude statues and other nude art representations.” It cited additional complaints, which Ms. McGee has challenged.

The evidence suggests that McGee had been considered by all to be a very effective teacher and that other performance issues were raised only after she had been fired.

Among the artworks the Times found along the walking route that might have upset the child or parent were an athletic-looking marble torso in a Greek funerary relief, ca. 330 BC; Auguste Rodin's tortured, sinewy "Shade" (above); and Aristide Maillol's "Flora," a sculpture of a woman in a sheer dress.

The Dallas Museum of Art's website has a great search feature for its collections. It appears to cover the museum's full collection, or at least a broad swath of highlights, a feature I have wished upon many brochureware museum websites in writing columns here.

If you have an opinion about the Frisco Independent School District's handling of this issue, contact principal and superintendent Nancy Lawson at (469) 633-2600. Or you can write her at:

Principal Nancy Lawson
Wilma Fisher Elementary
2500 Old Orchard Drive
Frisco, TX 75034

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