Art Teacher's Right to Create Art, Murmer v. Chesterfield County School Board
Steve Murmer is an art teacher at Monacan High School in Chesterfield County. He is also an artist. Using the pseudonym Stan Murmur, he creates prints by spreading paint on his buttocks and other body parts, and pressing them onto the canvas. Murmer was always careful to keep his art separate from his classroom duties, and never discussed his artwork in class. In 2004, Murmer, using his pseudonym appeared on an obscure cable TV show. The video depicts Murmer, disguised in a Groucho Marx mask and head towel being interviewed and demonstrating his art. (He wore a thong swimming suit during the demonstration portion.) The video made its way onto YouTube, and was seen by faculty. Murmer was then fired. We filed suit on his behalf on October 4, 2007, arguing that Murmer’s termination violated the First Amendment. On March 6, 2008, we settled the case, with the school board agreeing to pay Murmer $65,000.