Substitute Teacher Suspended Over Frida Kahlo Documentary

An unidentified substitute teacher in Oregon was recently suspended without pay for showing PBS’ The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo. Toward the end of January, Portland resident Jennifer Lewis led the outcry against Portland Public Schools for suspending the substitute teacher for playing said documentary.

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“PPS has put one of our high school teachers on unpaid administrative leave for showing students a documentary on Frida Kahlo,” Lewis said in her Facebook post. “To me, this is unacceptable. Censoring art and books that our children have access to is NOT ok… PPS says that her art is too violent and sexual in nature.”

The documentary, released in 2005, tells the story of the icon’s work, her radical politics and love life. It also covers mature themes like “sexuality, miscarriage and illness.” PBS included a guide for teachers to use in order to decipher the informative film and even issued a warning about the film’s intense themes, recommending it be played for students only in grades 10-12.

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The students in question were all over the age of 13 and part of a program for pupils in “federal immigration limbo.” Portland Teacher Association President Gwen Sullivan joined Lewis in her protest over the school board’s decision by changing her Facebook picture to Frida. Since then, the unnamed instructor has been reinstated into the substitute pool and will receive 11 days of back pay.

Frida’s work has been celebrated in her native Mexico as national and indigenous treasure, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the woman experience. Does this merit censorship? You be the judge, watch the film below.