In the photo, a Warrensburg Middle School teacher stands in the front of the White House, both middle fingers held high in the air, his back turned to the camera.
Last week, the eighth-grade teacher made the image his profile picture on Facebook. Outrage — and a robust discussion about whether the teacher should be disciplined for the gesture because he was on a trip with middle-school students — quickly followed.
Superintendent Scott Patrick told The Star that the teacher was not on a school-sponsored trip when he took the photo, but on a trip hosted through a private company. The Washington D.C. trip was hosted through WorldStrides Discoveries, a company that builds programs for elementary and middle school students outside of the classroom.
The visit to Washington D.C was paid for by students and the adults chaperoning them, Patrick said.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
He said the school district will review whether the teacher violated a district policy, or if a teacher can be held accountable for a policy violation outside of the school environment. He reiterated that free speech is a protected right.
But since parent John Hammond posted the photo this week and encouraged others to share it, outrage has spread throughout the school community and beyond.
“Say and do what you want on your own time but not while representing the school,” Hammond wrote.
His post has been shared more than 2,000 times. Many parents called for the educator to be fired. Other defended his right to express himself on his personal time.
Patrick said he had received a large amount of calls, emails and messages regarding the issue.
“They’ve been on both sides of the issue,” he said.