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Cache County School District, Fired Art Teacher Rueda Reach Compromise

On Dec. 4, an elementary school art lesson led to a controversy that drew international press coverage.

It started when Lincoln Elementary School art teacher Mateo Rueda had his class pass around prints of classical art from a collection of postcards from the school’s library. 

Among the prints were nude paintings including Amedeo Modigliani’s “Iris Tree” and François Boucher’s “Odalisque.” Rueda confiscated the prints when he saw them, saying he didn’t know they were part of the set and would not have used them.

The district later fired Rueda, citing ongoing personnel issues. Since then, stories about the issue were picked up by People magazine, Slate, and even UK-based outlets including The Independent and The Daily Mail.

Cache County School District and Rueda released a joint statement on the district’s Facebook page Thursday. Gary Thomas, the district’s executive director of elementary education, said Rueda and district officials have reached an agreement.

“The conflict between the Cache County School District and Mr. Rueda has been resolved at this point in a satisfactory manner for both of us and at this point our number one concern is that we can move forward and educate kids,” Thomas said. “That’s our number one job.”

According to the statement, Rueda will not be reinstated as an art teacher, but he will remain eligible for employment by the district, “without any negative impact from the events leading to his past departure.”

“As far as Mr. Rueda is concerned, he is welcome to apply for any positions in the future that he might be qualified for,” Thomas said.

District officials plan to reevaluate the district’s art materials and policies.