ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Two high school teachers said Tuesday they have been placed on leave for refusing to remove war-related student artwork posted in their classrooms.
Highland High School teachers Allen Cooper and Geoffrey Barrett said they were told Monday night that they would be suspended if they did not remove the posters.
Barrett, who teaches history and current events, said the student art carried both anti-war and pro-war messages, and was created as part of a class assignment.
"I think this is mostly a violation of the students' rights to have a voice and express their opinions," Barrett said. "Asking me to take down the posters was taking away the voice of the students and I was not going to do that."
Cooper said one of the signs in question in his classroom read "No War Mr. Cooper." It was written by an Afghani student who has had family members killed in U.S.-led bombings in Afghanistan, he said.
"I really agonized over this," said Cooper, an English teacher. "I don't want to be suspended. I just want to teach my classes."
Both teachers said the posters in question were taken down by school officials before classes began Tuesday.
Rigo Chavez, a spokesman for the school district, said the teachers had been placed on paid administrative leave "in connection with the district's policy on the presentation of controversial issues."
On Monday, two teachers and a counselor from neighboring Rio Grande High School were cleared to return to work after similar suspensions for refusing to take down anti-war signs.