As It Happens

Teacher says she was fired for saying the word vagina in art class

Allison Wint was a substitute teacher at Harper Creek Middle School in Michigan. She says she was fired for using the word "vagina" when she was discussing Georgia O'Keeffe paintings in class.
Alison Wint says she was fired from her job as a substitute teacher because she used the word vagina when talking about Georgia O'Keeffe's art. (Alison Wint)

A Michigan teacher says she lost her job for saying the word "vagina" to her eighth grade class, when talking about Georgia O'Keeffe's art.

It just never even occurred to me that the word vagina would be upsetting. The school had every right to remove me.- Allison Wint, substitute teacher

"They (principal) said it was a discussion on reproductive health (which violated school policy) and they would have to let me go for the remainder of the year," Allison Wint tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

This undated photo released by the Baltimore Museum of Art shows the Georgia O'Keeffe painting "Pink Tulip" (Georgia O'Keefe Museum/AP)

Wint, who is employed by a third party agency as a substitute teacher, was teaching a class on American artist Georgia O'Keeffe to a class of eight grade students. For decades, art critics have interpreted O'Keeffe's flower paintings as representations of female genitalia — interpretations that O'Keeffe herself denied.

"I was trying to discuss the issue of controversy and art and why this was art and why she felt it was important to make these paintings," says Wint.

She estimated she said the word vagina ten times through the course of the class discussion.

Harper Creek Middle School released a statement on its Facebook page which reads:

Harper Creek Middle School posted this statement to its Facebook page. (CBC)

Wint is baffled by that statement, "I'm not sure why now they are saying they removed me for that reason instead of the reason they gave me."

Wint says she was teaching the curriculum that the school had provided her, "according to that curriculum … (they) need to learn how to evoke emotion and portray emotion in art … controversy is one of the most pure forms of evoking emotion."

Wint says she understands the school's position, and if she had been aware of the policy earlier, she would have discussed other examples of art.

In this photo provided by Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, a 1929. Gelatin silver print of Georgia O'Keeffe is shown. . (AP Photo/Copyright Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Albuquerque Journal) NO SALES ( Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Albuquerque Journal/AP)

"Parents do have a right to have a say in what their children learn and what they should be exposed to." She adds, "it just never even occurred to me that the word vagina would be upsetting. The school had every right to remove me."

Wint says she doesn't know if she will have teaching opportunities at the school in the future.

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