Is a cigar sometimes just a cigar? That debate will remain unresolved, but The Daily Caller can say with confidence that a banana is definitely not always just a banana at North Marion High School near Ocala, Fla.
School district officials suspended North Marion High teacher Jonathan Hampton for three days without pay after he allegedly used a banana to touch a female student during class, reports Ocala.com.
Hampton was teaching an advanced, college-level course at the time. The theme of the discussion that day was the Freudian ramifications of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
According to a May 13, 2013 discipline letter obtained by local CBS-affiliate WKMG, a student alleged that Hampton “rubbed a student’s head and neck area with a banana” while discussing phallic imagery.
The unidentified student’s parents reported the incident on May 6, some three months after it happened. According to the school district, they complained because their daughter felt uncomfortable. It’s not clear what factors caused them to wait three months to lodge their grievance.
A district representative said that Hampton was suspended because, given the totality of the circumstances, school officials had determined that he made inappropriate use of the banana by using it to “to make physical contact with a student during a discussion on cylinder objects, phalluses and/or sex symbols.”
The discipline letter written by deputy superintendent Rick Lankford suggested that other students had complained that Hampton’s college-level coursework has gone beyond community norms with “excessive frequency, causing discomfort to many of your students.”
Some parents and community members side firmly with the school district.
“That is disgusting, very disgusting,” said Dale Johnson, identified by WKMG as a grandmother. “I don’t think he should be allowed to teach kids. You don’t do stuff like that and get away with it.”
Hampton did not speak with local media but his attorney Mark Fiedelholtz did, telling a much different story.
“He doesn’t recall ever touching the student with a banana, but if he did it would be to get their attention,” Fiedelholtz told WKMG.
“There was nothing else to it,” he also said, according to Ocala.com.
The attorney added that no other students had made a complaint at the time or during the three subsequent months about the alleged banana incident.
Hampton has taught at North Marion High since 2007. According to personnel records obtained by WKMG, his work as a teacher has been generally “outstanding.” He was the 2011-12 teacher of the year. In 2009, though, Hampton landed in hot water for negative online commentary about students and fellow teachers.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said the school district’s discipline letter stated that Hampton “rubbed a student’s head and neck with a banana.” Although the letter did say the student alleged Hampton had used the banana to rub the student’s head and neck, the district’s reprimand concluded only that Hampton “used a banana to make physical contact with a student during a discussion on cylinder objects, phalluses and/or sex symbols.” The district also found that Hampton had violated the school’s ethics code.