A high school teacher in Arizona wore a devil costume, waived a pitchfork over his students’ heads and greeted them with “hail Satan” as they entered his classroom last week, according to local media reports.
The teacher claims it was all in good fun, but one student spoke out, resulting in an investigation and the teacher being placed on administrative leave.
“Participating in spirit weeks like this is a way for me to engage with my students and bring fun to my classroom,” the teacher wrote in an email to local NBC affiliate 12News. “It’s truly not any more complicated than that.”
He further attempted to excuse his behavior, explaining the theme for spirit week was dynamic duos and that he had partnered with another teacher who wore an angel costume.
However, Mesa High School Sophomore Nathaniel Hamlet told 12News he is a Christian and the incident was an affront to him and his faith. What’s more, he says he asked the teacher to stop, but the teacher continued the disturbing greeting several times. While he admits some students thought it was funny, he says others were also upset by the inappropriate greeting.
“Some people thought it was funny, some people didn’t like it, some people were like ‘whatever,’ they just blew it off,” Nathaniel said. “I said, ‘Don’t do that to me’ and I pushed [the pitchfork] away, maybe three or four times and he still said it and still did it.”
When Nathaniel’s father Chris Hamlet learned what happened, he was furious, prompting him to contact the school’s principal to make them aware of the situation.
“I was livid because I am a Christian as well, obviously,” he said. “What really tipped it over for me is, [Nathaniel] kept telling him no… and the teacher kept persisting.”
For the Hamlet’s, this wasn’t just a bad joke. The teacher had gone too far. They felt they had to stand up for their beliefs. While the teacher in question reportedly hasn’t been in the classroom since last Thursday, they feel administrative leave isn’t good enough. They want him fired.
“I feel like that’s fair, but he did it repeatedly to everyone,” Nathaniel said. “So, I feel like you should probably get fired.”
“If you’re gonna keep the Christian stuff out, then you got to keep the devil-worshiping stuff out, period,” his father asserted.
The school district did not give any details of the incident in a public statement, simply telling 12News it was still under investigation.
“Mesa Public Schools administration was notified of the alleged incident at Mesa High School late Wednesday afternoon after school hours,” the statement reads. “Our Human Resources department began the investigation Thursday morning and placed the teacher on paid administrative leave pending the result of the investigation. The investigation remains ongoing.”