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Sterling Employment Law

Was Detroit teacher's suspension a violation of her employee rights?

Art that challenges social mores, stereotypes and conventional attitudes is not always appropriate for all audiences. So does that make it inappropriate for schools?

That's a relevant issue in the Detroit area, where a teacher has been suspended for allowing a student to play a song by the rapper Macklemore. The song does not have any profanities, but it does tackle important issues like stereotyping and homophobia and that apparently made at least one student uncomfortable.

The incident has some people crying foul and claiming that the teacher's employee rights were violated.

The teacher said a student in her eighth-grade performing arts class asked her if he could play the song "Same Love" for the rest of her class. She said she had never heard the song, so she asked if the song had any swear words. When he said it did not, she allowed him to play it.

Evidently, however, a second student was offended by the song and informed the school principal. Eventually, the teacher was suspended without pay for three days because she had exposed her students to material that contained sexual themes and a derogatory slur.

Now, the school and school officials have not been able to comment much, so we are only hearing the teacher's side. That being said, it does not seem unusual to us that a performing arts class would examine and explore some more provocative expressions of art (within reason, of course). Macklemore himself issued a statement and pointed out that while "Same Love" does contain a slur, it is because the song comments on the use of that term, not because it uses the term as an insult.

In short, it is easy to conclude that there might be more going on here than meets the eye. We feel that we have not heard the last of this story, so we will keep an eye out for any noteworthy developments.

Source: My Northwest, "Teacher suspended without pay for playing Macklemore song," Nov. 29, 2012

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