A few days after appealing his termination for showing a clip from the movie "Jackass Number Two" to students, a South Carolina high school teacher tendered his resignation, in part, he says, to protect the students that came out in droves to support him.
In the movie scene, a naked actor puts a sock puppet over his penis and inserts it into a cage with a poisonous snake.
The snake responds in anger, as did parents of students at Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant when they found out about the screening. Christopher Poston had downloaded the movie to play during a Latin class he was covering on Feb. 14, and turned it off when he realized the content was inappropriate, his lawyer, Jay Masty, claims.
In a letter requesting a public hearing, Masty said Poston thought the movie would be of value to the students, as "societal norms" and "expectations of conduct" were two of the major themes in his sociology class.
But he now regrets showing the clip. "If he had known it, he wouldn't have shown it," Masty said.
The Charleston County School District fired Poston earlier this month. Poston appealed the decision and left town, because of the harassment he received, he says, largely from the media.
Many students took up his cause, and claimed most of them had seen the lewd, prankster movie anyway.
"I think just about everyone I know has seen the movie," student Alex Myers told WIS-TV in Columbia. "I don't know anyone that's really offended by it."
One senior, Rebecca Powell, started an online petition on Change.org, which states that Poston "has changed hundreds of lives" and that he doesn't deserve to "have his job taken and his name ruined." It collected over 2,000 signatures. Some students selling T-shirts with the slogan "The man who has impacted thousands of children's lives."
Students describe his class, which many say had a waiting list, as the best part of their high school experience. Poston arranged a Buddy Olympics, where his students spend a day doing activities with special education children, and the Mitchell and St. James Projects, which connect students with their lower-income peers at other schools. He taught his students "to be better people," says Valerie Yermal, one of the signees.
One of his former students, Grace Stenhouse, writes that as a disabled student with no friends, she would show up outside his class early to avoid talking to classmates. Poston started coming to school early too, she says, to let her in and give her tasks. He sent her a note saying he was proud of her, and wrote her recommendation for college.
But there was a more sinister side to this uproar of support. The girl who first told her mother that the clip had made her uncomfortable, and sparked the investigation, has received death threats, according to her parents.
Poston reportedly supported the girl. "He hates when anyone gets bullied," his attorney told The Post and Courier, "especially someone who stood up and did the right thing."
And as the student campaign to get him rehired continued to grow, Poston decided to resign. "My resignation is tendered, in part, to protect my family and the students who have expressed such kind words about me after this event," he wrote, "students that may be harmed by their continued support of me."
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