A high school art teacher has hired the ACLU to challenge his firing after a video of him moonlighting as a "butt-printing artist" was widely circulated among his high school students.

The executive director of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said a public employee such as former teacher Stephen Murmer has a right to free expression outside the workplace as long as it does not interfere with his job.

"Once he became fired, then it became a potential legal issue," Kent Willis said. "First Amendment issues always have a high priority ranking for us."

Murmer can either appeal the school board's firing to a state court or go to federal court on constitutional grounds, Willis said.

Murmer, who taught at Monacan High School, declined to comment when reached by phone Wednesday night.

School spokeswoman Debra Marlow said, "If there is a legal case, we'll prepare for it."

Murmer was suspended in December and then fired Jan. 9 after a video turned up on YouTube.com showing him with a fake nose and glasses, a towel on his head and black thong.

It showed him practicing his private abstract artwork, much of which is produced when he smears his posterior and genitals with paint and presses them against canvas.

The video was widely dispersed among students.

Marlow said after Murmer's firing that students have a right to receive their education in a positive learning environment and that teachers are expected to lead by example, be role models and honor core values.

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