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Photo Teacher Is on Administrative Leave

Despite parent support and student protests, the Samohi teacher remains out of the classroom—on paid leave—after a controversy over students' semi-nude portraits.

The teacher who departed amid controversy over semi-nude photos taken of and by his students is on paid administrative leave.

Allan Barnes' departure from the classroom was

At the time, district officials would not say whether Barnes had left on his own accord or if he had been forced out. They said only that he was no longer teaching.

Senior Carina Ramirez said she was approached in December by faculty members who had found portraits she said she took on campus of a teenage couple embracing while nude. About that time, Barnes was replaced by a substitute teacher.

According to parents who said they've been in touch with Barnes in recent weeks, administrators accused him of affording students too much privacy in the on-campus studio during lunchtime and after school.

District officials confirmed this week that Barnes was placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 13, 2011, but would not state why, and when or if he is expected to return.

"There is not much I can say about this personnel matter," said Debra Washington, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District's assistant superintendent for human resources.

Superintendent Sandra Lyon has declined to comment.

Ramirez said she had uploaded the photos to edit and use solely in a portfolio for college applications. She said she snapped other nude portraits that were displayed in a student art show and that had garnered approval from the high school's principal.

All of them followed Barnes' guidelines, she said: "No nips, no pubes."

But when Ramirez went to retrieve the photo from the art show, she said, the chair of the school's art department told her it had been confiscated. Shortly after that, she learned her other photos meant for the college portfolio had been found on the server, and Barnes was replaced by a substitute teacher.

Barnes was hired as a probationary teacher Sept. 3, 2010. He taught two levels of photography classes. He earned the respect and admiration of students who said they are uninspired by a new, longer-term substitute teacher who took over their classes about two weeks ago.

"We are so lucky to have photography [classes], so lucky," said junior Julia Gerhardt. "We are grateful it wasn't shut down, but if they're going to keep the department alive, they've go to keep the spark alive—that's Barnes."

Students have hung posters on campus where they recently staged another protest to bring the situation to the attention of their peers.

Parents call the situation a "debacle." Many told the board of education in February that the incident should have been used as an opportunity for students to learn about photography and the law.

"Actions taken by the administration did not solve the initial problem," said Santa Monica High parent June Stoddard. "Why have the actions of one or two adventuresome students resulted in his removal? In what way has this gutting of the program, cancellation of Mr. Barnes' invited speakers, and dismantling of the lighting studio enhanced the safety or education of the students? How has Samohi benefited from these actions?"

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jan debont March 02, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Just another sign of the false fear mongering that has taken over this country. What could possibly be wrong on seeing or photographing a person while being semi or fully nude? What is this absurd obsession with everything that has to do with sex and nudity. The next time this ignorant school board will tell their students that they cannot go to museums that show nude sculptures or nude paintings etc. How can these educators call themselves educators? All this non sense is a direct result from the extremist believes and opinions of the very far right. Putting this teacher on "paid leave" tells us more about the obsessive religious behavior of the school board which prevents these students to learn about life and art in life. Nudity for thousands of years has been a very big part of that. These educators clearly believe that in these thousands of years, everyone was wrong. How did they possibly get these jobs?
Carl Hamilton March 03, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Amen Jan. This is an art class. Yet theses educators feel totally fine and just in censoring said art and stifling student's freedom of expression. Pretty lousy if you ask me.
samo parent March 05, 2012 at 06:09 PM
It is ART, pure and simple. This is another example of the stupidity and misguided action of adults not seeing and/or trusting the good teachers and students and instead, letting bad behaving students and ill equipped teachers remain. If the school was as concerned about the proliferation of drugs being sold on campus, kids making out in the hallways, and other incendiary actions that sudents see everyday at SAMOHI, as they are about a incident that can quickly be reprimanded and put in the "move on" file, then we would all be better off. They don't because those other problems would actually take work and commitment and a paradigm shift which they choose not to tackle. Once again, focus on something that embarrasses rather than focus on finding real solutions to real problems. Here's one for the school board: how about making the bathrooms at SAMOHI even moderately pleasant so kids don't have to wait till they get home after school to use the bathroom? Or painting the walls so that the kids feel some pride in their school and treat it better. I have become incredibly disappointed in at the high school level. It is not what we thought it would be and has woefully let us down. So, yeah, busting the chops of an art teacher and student who are exhibiting their work and get derailed by a couple of bad seeds, good one, school board. Another fine example of being leaders rather than cowards.

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