MOUNT HOREB, Wis. - Students at Mount Horeb High School protested outside the school before class on Monday after one of their teachers was placed on administrative leave.
"If I didn't have her, I wouldn't be here today doing this, and I wouldn't feel confident about myself and my beliefs to do this," said junior Josh Busher.
Several students said the teacher in question, Beth Malgio, is very active in the school community and goes out of her way to make them feel supported. They said it especially shows in a class where students recently watched a graphic documentary in.
The documentary, called "Miss Representation," was shown to students as part of a gender inequality lesson. Some did not feel it was handled in the best way and got administration involved.
"We met with individuals on Friday morning who expressed some concerns with regard to some images that were displayed during the film," said Dr. Steve Salerno, superintendent for Mt. Horeb School District.
Salerno said it wasn't necessarily the film that was the problem, but the method in which it was shown.
"We recognize the message that the film was sharing was very powerful and an important message, and the question was whether or not the film, which was shown with the help of a substitute teacher, not the teacher in question, might have been disturbing to many," Salerno said.
The district decided to perform a thorough investigation and placed Malgio on paid administrative leave. She was told by the high school principal on Friday to gather her belongings from class, instead of walking her out. He ended up checking in on the classroom later, and saw that Malgio was still there.
"Kids were upset. Kids were in tears, crying. She was allegedly seen hugging kids, and that's when the principal said, 'It's time for us to leave,'" Salerno said.
The action taken made several people upset, including the creator of the documentary "Miss Representation." She sent a statement saying:
"I am shocked that a high school teacher, Beth Maglio, was disciplined for screening and discussing my film, 'Miss Representation,' with her class in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin. The film exposes how mainstream media contributes to the underrepresentation of women and girls in position of power and influence. She was right to turn the lens on harmful gender norms in media and have an open discussion encouraging media literacy. I am incredulous that a school would punish her, but I am encouraged to see that the Mt. Horeb community is rallying around Ms. Maglio. She deserves our respect and support."
Students also voiced their opinions on the district's actions.
"I think that you can have your opinions about what we're being taught, but it's not fair to a teacher to have a student disagree with them and be put on leave," Busher said.
Salerno said it's standard procedure, and hopes the matter will be resolved soon.
"Our goal is to get her back to school as quickly as possible," Salerno said.
Salerno sent a letter to parents on Sunday explaining the incident and that Malgio had been placed on paid administrative leave while an investigation is done.
A phone call was also placed to Child Protective Services because the district is a mandated reporter, according to the letter. The department is currently in the process of screening the allegation.
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