A high school art teacher fired after a video of his off-hours work as a "butt-printing artist" became widely circulated among his own students intends to challenge his dismissal in court.
Stephen Murmer has hired the American Civil Liberties Union as legal representatives.
"Once he became fired, then it became a potential legal issue," Kent Willis, executive director of the Virginia chapter of the ACLU, said Wednesday.
Murmer was suspended in December after a video showing him disguised with a fake nose and glasses, a towel on his head and black thong, turned up on YouTube.com.
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 at Monacan High School.
The Chesterfield County School Board voted to fire Murmer on Jan. 9. School spokeswoman Debra Marlow said then that students have a right to receive their education in a positive learning environment free from distractions and disruptions.
The decision also was in keeping with court rulings that hold that teachers are expected to lead by example, be role models and honor core values, she said.
The ACLU advised Murmer before his firing, Willis said, and believes a public employee has a right to free expression outside the work place as long as it does not interfere with his job. On Saturday, ACLU board members voted to take his case, reports AP.
"First Amendment issues always have a high priority ranking for us," Willis said referring to free speech rights that are defined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The ACLU is seeking volunteer lawyers and is considering the next legal move, Willis said.
Murmer can either appeal the school board's decision to a state circuit court, or go to federal district court and try to recover damages on constitutional grounds, he said.
Murmer refused comment when reached by phone Wednesday night.
"If there is a legal case, we'll prepare for it," Marlow said.