Teacher Busted for Showing Kids' Version of "Faust"
Todd Heisler © News
By Tillie Fong, Rocky Mountain News
February 22, 2006
BENNETT - A music teacher placed on leave last month after some parents objected to the showing of a video of the opera Faust to elementary school students says she's been called a devil worshipper and a lesbian in this small town 35 miles east of Denver. Some parents reportedly objected to the video because of references to the devil, while others were troubled by a scene in which a man was killed in silhouette and by allusions to suicide.
Tresa Waggoner, 33, was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 30 and will remain on leave until further notice.
George Sauter, superintendent of the Bennett School District, declined to say why Waggoner was placed on leave, calling it a personnel matter.
Waggoner, a first-year music teacher at Bennett Elementary School, also teaches choir at the middle and high schools.
She defended her decision to show the video to her elementary classes. She said the opera is "a great part of our civilization and Western culture. It was for the children to enjoy and be exposed to opera."
The controversy began after Waggoner, a former opera singer and a mother of two, invited Opera Colorado singers to perform Island of Tulipatan at Bennett Elementary School on Jan. 31.
She said she wanted to prepare her students for the performance, and decided to show portions of Faust, which was on a Who's Afraid of Opera? video she found on a shelf in her music room at the elementary school.
On Jan. 9, 10 and 11 she showed her first-, second- and third-grade classes about 12 minutes of highlights from the video.
"They were on the edge of the seat," Waggoner said of the students' reaction. "Nobody came to me crying, no one wanted to leave."
But on Jan. 13, she received a call from the mother of a second-grader. "She said, 'I basically do not understand why do you not let the kids sing Christmas songs at their winter concert, but you would teach them about the devil. Are you not a Christian?' "
Waggoner said she was shocked at the question and offered to meet with the parent, but the woman never took her up on the offer.
"I devoted half of my life singing in the church," she said, adding that she has recorded two albums of Christian music. "It's absurd that these people, a few people - are calling me terrible things."
Waggoner said she notified Principal Mark Reinsbach about the call and gave him the video. She said Reinsbach called her into his office Jan. 17 and told her to write a letter of apology to the parents of her elementary school students.
On Jan. 23, she learned the school board had canceled the Opera Colorado performance at Bennett.
Becky Lathrop, spokeswoman for Opera Colorado, said there was no explanation given for the cancellation.
Sauter placed Waggoner on leave Jan. 30. The superintendent said Waggoner's leave had "nothing to do with parents' complaints" but declined to elaborate.