Teacher resigns after giving 13-yr-old student copy of Eightball

A high school English teacher in Connecticut was forced to resign after the parents of a 13-year-old girl complained that he gave her a copy of Daniel Clowes' Eightball, a comic book published by Fantagraphics.

Daniel Clowes wrote the screenplays for Ghost World and Art School Confidential. His comics books often deal with adult subjects, but are PG-13, not "lewd" or "pornographic." He has also started a new weekly comic that appears in the New York Times magazine on Sundays called Mister Wonderful, which you can read online.

200709241209 The parents of a freshman student whose teacher resigned after he gave her a sexually explicit illustrated book said Wednesday their daughter has been the target of harassment from fellow students, and they want the school district to do more to clarify the issue with other parents.

The girl’s father, who asked that his family remain anonymous because it has already been the target of criticism, described the graphic novel that English teacher Nate Fisher gave the student as “borderline pornography.”

The book, one of a series of comic book novels by Daniel Clowes, is called “Eightball #22.” It includes references to rape, various sex acts and murder, as well as images of a naked woman, and a peeping tom watching a woman in the shower.

“It’s not even like a gray area,” the father said. “It’s clearly over the line.”



  1. >They must not teach Shakespeare at that school.

    Or the Bible (which I guess they really wouldn’t if it’s a public school).

  2. While I would not recommend this book to any of my younger students, it’s definitely not any worse than the crap kids see on prime time TV. BTW, this is one of the best issues of Eightball, in my opinion.

  3. I do remember reading Catcher in the Rye, which used a lot of heavy words. I also remember watching a lot of questionable content in Film Study classes, and I especially remember my graduation day when 10-12 girls ran down the halls topless. No teachers resigned.

    Then again, I live in Massachusetts, which is a liiittle more easy-going than the pompous shitbag state of Connecticut.

  4. Not sure if he should be forced to resign but that was not good judgment (male teacher, young female student, graphic material —> don’t do it)

    Agreed that it is no worse than much of TV and movies, but teachers probably should not be recommending any media that is even remotely “adult” –to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

  5. …Having worked in a comic book store in my younger days, I’ve dealt with parents like this before. Only about 1 in 20 is really concerned about their kids reading what they erroneously perceive as “smut”. The rest of the time, the parent is an anal-retentive closeted megalomaniac control freak who is just screaming, bitching, moaning, whining and otherwise raising a stink for two specific reasons:

    1) Because he/she/it *can*, and because they’re pretending to be a “concerned parent”, they’ll be listened to and probably heeded, which gets their rocks off because they now made themselves feel important, influential and empowered.

    …and, most diabolically:

    2) It finally gives them a justification for denying their kids the right to purchase comics that have become so overpriced that it’s obvious the publishers are using the old drug dealer model of marketing: get the kids hooked, then gradually jack up the price while lying through their teeth abour increased overhead.

    …As for whether or not the teacher went “over the line”, let’s admit it right here and now: unless you were home schooled in some sort of whacked cult setting that kept you totally insulated from the outside world, every single one of us was exposed to the “smut” and “pornography” that Clowes’ GN depicted at least *twice* by the age of eleven, and odds are your parents were by that same age or at least by age thirteen.

    Bottom Line: Parents need to get with the times and accept that keeping their kids “squeaky clean” and “virgin pure” is going to cause them far more harm than good. They need to know what life is all about as early as possible so they’ll be prepared for it. Leaving everything up to accident and happenstance just won’t cut it anymore, especially since it’s so damn unnecessary.

  6. This is the wrong comic to give to a teen. The teacher should’ve handed out one of the earlier Eightball issues, like 1-15, the short stories following the “like a velvet glove” ongoing series were the best IMO. :)

  7. My wife teaches language arts to kids about this age. Isn’t 13 a bit young for high school?
    Regardless, if, as a parent, my teenager was exposed to something that i felt was inappropriate, i would just return it. I’m not sure I understand why this teacher needs to resign.

    We are talking about a High School level English class. It is at this point that we should be asking kids to read at higher levels and finding deeper meanings in texts. One parent complaint should never be the cause of changing reading material available for students.


  8. “but teachers probably should not be recommending any media that is even remotely “adult” –to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”

    Unless its classic of course. If its been around long enough to be considered literature, then anything goes.

  9. Adult themes? High school freshman? Those things never overlap!

    Mentions of murder and various sex acts is par for the course of high school life. Unless the student specifically complained that this was something that made her uncomfortable, that receiving this as a gift rubbed her the wrong way, the parent is being overprotective. Which is a pity, because it looks like they just drove out a positive adult influence on her life.

  10. Remember, we are now at the point that adult males are not even suppose to talk to under 18 females. No mentors, no treat them like adults, no nothing. The assumption in the USA, not so much in Europe that I can tell, is it must be predatory. Anyway, should I hide my Vertigo collection from my kids when they get older? If my kid gives another kid the comic to read that is from me, am I guilty of some perceived crime or is my kid? I was reading Louis La’mour westerns in 7th grade. My mother was a bit concerned, but never said no. But one thing for certain — reading can never be bad. Even reading “Mein Kampf” is good as it illustrates to most people that Hitler was an idiot.

  11. I was 13 and a Freshman taking all Sophomore classes- and a girl.

    If a teacher had given me this material, I would have loved it! I was sick and tired of being coddled and ignored by teaching staff- as a difficult, intelligent and progressive student, I pretty much had to watch myself get dumber because of the idiots my peers had for parents. My own parents weren’t cool enough to know of or recommend good comics, and all my friends at the time were X-Men nerds, so I had no idea this stuff existed until college.

    To be forced to resign is idiocy. If the parents have issues with their 13 yr old coming into contact with adult themes, they shouldn’t have let her skip whatever grades necessary to end up in that unique position of being in a semi-adult class at age 13. Nuff said. My own skipping had to be approved by all my teachers and my parents, so it’s not like they didn’t know what they were doing as it happened.

    If you are smart enough to read Homer, you are old enough to read Clowes. It’s not even that racy! It’s not like, I dunno, Song of Solomon!

  12. I find it AMAZING that these publication are constantly called “Graphic Novels” when people say they’re just silly comics; but are then called “comic books” when something serious like this comes up.

    The teacher was an absolute idiot. He didn’t give a student a piece of controversial literature, he gave a student a very graphic Graphic Novel. The fact that Daniel Clowes wrote it doesn’t mean its automatically a safe-read for all audiences. Assuming so is absolutely stupid on the professor and BoingBoing reader’s parts. If JK Rowling were to author ” Harry Potter 69 – Harry Rapes, Fucks and Kills the Elven Princess DeSade” , I don’t think it would magically find its way to America’s classrooms. Just because an author is safe, doesn’t mean all their work is.

    I remember in High School art, our teacher would show us the ‘safe’ Mapplethorpe photos and bring up his other work as being ‘inappropriate for discussion in a high school classroom , but amazing art to read up on until college”. She knew the boundaries of what she could and couldn’t teach in the classroom, and how to cover her ass.

    This also wasn’t a course assignment, nor a class discussion , with a lesson plan or concurrent critical thinking syllabus – it was a makeup reading for a summer assignment. We read a lot of ‘racy’ books in high school – and the teachers made damn sure that they covered their asses and had lesson plans about the sex , rape and drugs in place so it was taught in a constructive context.

    A high school, middle school or even grade school student could easily handle this material, thats not the point. If a friend gave it to them, the parents would most certainly call up the other kid’s parents and yell at them. The same thing happened here – except the friend was a teacher who made a monumentally stupid mistake.

    Are the parents overreacting? Sure. Is the little girl really crying at home every night? Probably not. Could Eightball be taught in a 9th grade Eglish class ? Absolutely — but it wasn’t. The content is simply inappropriate for an unstructured assignment.

    The situation played out exactly like it should have — someone so stupid as to make this kind of mistake shouldn’t be allowed to teach kids.

  13. Nate – it strikes me as, while not the best of moves for the teacher, an over-reaction from parents that is entirely removed from their daughter’s opinion, and it completely eliminates here rights here.

    And I have to agree with subgrrl8 – if her parents were involved enough to jumped her up a grade, they should be smart enough to talk to their more mature daughter about this book, and not go jumping to conclusions in outrage and self-righteousness

  14. I’ve never been more enraged about the notion that people are condemning a book without having read it. And I’m surprised that a lot of BoingBoing commenters are jumping on board. “Inappropriate”? Read the damn thing. You’ll be doing yourself a favor. In my estimation it’s the most evocative single issue of a comic ever printed. It’s illustrative of narrative style that I wish I was privy to at 13.

  15. I don’t understand. He gave a female student a book that has a naked woman in it? I mean, a “female” student, someone who already knows what the female body looks like? We are all going to see naked people one day, your husband, your wife, your children, why the hell are we so worried that we are going to “corrupt” our HUMAN children with images or descriptions of what a HUMAN looks like as an adult?

    Also, seems to me that the child is at an age where they can start understanding the concepts described and if they don’t already understand the concepts in the book at 13(some women enter puberty and can have children at this age!) you aren’t doing your job teaching your children about the world we live in.


  16. In a perfect world (which could either be in 15 years or never), Clowes would be part of the curriculum.

    When I was thirteen, the best English teacher I ever had, pointed me towards Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse 5.” It was short, lewd, and science fiction. Nothing what I thought a “real” book would be. It blew my mind and changed the way I thought about novels. Who would have believed it would be remotely appropriate for young adults when it was first published?

  17. Firing the teacher is way over the top. C’mon! He didn’t sleep with her, and he didn’t take her to a porn movie. He gave her a book.

    It wasn’t a copy of Hustler. This is the artist whose work Time magazine called “slightly exaggerated suburban weirdness.” Time’s critic gave Eightball #22 a glowing review:


    The family didn’t approve? Fine. Give the book back and ask the teacher not to give the daughter anything like that again. Fair enough. Don’t fire the teacher for trying to do his job, fer crissakes.

    Someone needs to remind parents like this that no one has ever been struck deaf by hearing a swear word, nor has anyone ever been struck blind from seeing a naked human body. These things are simply not injurious to anyone, child or adult.

    Soon we’ll be putting pants on cats and dogs in order to “protect” the children.

  18. Regarding the student’s age:

    I turned 14 the August that I started high school. In my district the oldest students in any given grade (who weren’t held back, natch) were those born in December, the youngest born in November. This is the beginning of the school year, maybe she has a birthday in the next couple months. Or perhaps she skipped a grade.

    I’ll agree the teacher fucked up, and I’ll also agree resignation is a bit much. He’s probably scared shitless of litigation or getting fired anyway. Whatever happened to “Sorry I fucked up, nobody died, it won’t happen again,” anyway?

  19. “Also let me tell you that when I went to the police and the school, we were not on a witch-hunt – we weren’t out to get anyone fired.”

    Perhaps the parents should have found out what the teacher’s intentions were BEFORE speaking to the police and the administration! Call me crazy.

    I have no idea what this teacher’s intentions were, but do you commenters have any ideas what the repercussions of even FALSE accusations and insinuations have on a teacher in the current climate? That’s just irresponsible.

    “The teacher capitulated, resigned, and didn’t even try to defend himself…”

    So of course he must be guilty. And he may be. Or perhaps he’s innocent and he just didn’t want to be publicly humiliated, and his career ruined, by the scandal.

    “The teacher collaborated the story that my daughter told, therefore implicating himself.”

    The “story,” as described here, is that he gave a girl a book, and then asked her how it made her feel. This is not an unusual question for an English teacher to ask a student who has just read an assigned book.

    Now, if the book’s content is not offensive to the mother, the offense here seems to be that he didn’t ask their permission first. Now, again, the parents might object to this, and they might suspect a situation developing, but going to the police and the administration is, as I said, irresponsible. If this guy is innocent, his career is no less damaged.

    Does anyone else here see this as hysteria, or is it just me?

    Let me put it this way: the next time you say something to someone under 18 which someone might think objectionable, you had better hope they exercise more judgement than these parents, or you’re screwed.

    Let’s hope this guy did actually have predatory intentions, or an innocent man’s reputation and career have been seriously damaged.

    Sorry to post such a long comment, ya’ll….

  20. I find I’m in sympathy with Om (7) on this one: it feels to me like the parent’s concern-trolling her own kid, and doesn’t give a damn that she’s wrecked the teacher’s reputation and professional career in the bargain. If the daughter wasn’t emotionally mature enough to deal with the material (regular curriculum or not), her parents shouldn’t have jumped her up a grade.

    This bit got to me:

    “I was pretty disappointed that the teacher resigned, because I was willing to hear what his intentions were, and would have considered them.

    She didn’t talk to him about his intentions before going to his administration and the police. I can’t believe this woman is so naive that she doesn’t know how many options were closed off the moment she did that.

    When we first brought this to the attention of the police and the administration, we stressed that we did not have all the facts,

    But they went to the school administration and the police anyway. None of them could ignore it or handle it quietly after that. It would take a more spirited than average school administration to stand up for any teacher under those circumstances; and this was a male teacher dealing with a thirteen-year-old. What if he was later accused of unsavory behavior with another girl, and her parents cited this case as evidence that the school didn’t take the problem seriously? Or maybe they have one of those idiotic zero tolerance rules. Whatever it was, the overwhelming likelihood was that the school admins would panic and cover their asses.

    and quite possibly my daughter received this without the teachers knowledge, or that quite possibly, our daughter was not telling the complete truth. We asked that both the administration and the police look into this matter with the utmost scrutiny before making any judgment.

    Utmost scrutiny I can believe, but not that it was done without judgement. Schools administrators have better things to do than devote the “utmost scrutiny” to cases where they don’t think there’s been wrongdoing.

    Apparently, when confronted by the administration, the teacher collaborated the story that my daughter told, therefor implicating himself.”

    Note “implicating”: this parent isn’t proceeding on the presumption of innocence.

    If the teacher had naughty intentions, his version wouldn’t match the kid’s. If he told it straight, it was because he didn’t think there’d been any wrongdoing.

    Next time, if he ever gets the chance (his teaching career is probably screwed), he should insist on having his lawyer with him.

    This is the other bit that got to me:

    Apparently the parent has no problem with nudity or adult material so long as it is part of the curriculum, and is given as a real assignment to all students and not just their daughter after school. If it is outside of the curriculum then they simply ask that they be allowed to approve the adult material before it is given to their daughter.

    Riiiiiiight. And the teacher is supposed to memorize sets of preferences for each child, and remember the preferences during all interactions with them? “They simply ask” is a disingenuous fraud. There was nothing simple about what they were asking.

    Cpt. Tim (10): Too right. If every “classic” chestnut of Eng. Lit. were translated into a graphic novel, you couldn’t teach Shakespeare, Chaucer, Hemingway, etc. below the college level. All that saves them is their reputation for somehow being Improving, and the fact that if parents wanted to complain about the book’s content, they’d have to read it first.

  21. I’m glad my field is math. If I decided to become a teacher I’d be relatively clear of this, as long as I stayed clear of the integral of the exponential function… and the number 69.

    Actually, I’ve decided teaching is not for me after all.

  22. Dr. Universe:
    “I’d be interested in seeing a sample of the “offending material” before I make a decision. I’m not at all familiar with his work.”

    The issue in question was reprinted as the Graphic Novel “Ice Haven” ISBN: 037542332X

    There is literally one image of a topless woman in a shower; the rest of the adult content is conversations between the characters i.e. no worse than anything in 100s of “normal” novels.

  23. What strikes me most about this story is that it illustrates our increasing reluctance in the US to confront one another directly. If this had happened to me as a student, my mother would have marched into school and given the teacher a piece of her mind. It might not have been pleasant, but it would have likely solved the situation without ruining a career. The teacher may have simply used poor judgment, or perhaps he *was* coming on to his student sexually. There’s no way to get a sense for that unless the parent gets in there, gets their hands dirty, and actually confronts the situation. If that doesn’t get the desired outcome, *then* perhaps get the authorities involved.

    To be sure, some situations are too dangerous to handle by oneself, but this was certainly not one of them.

  24. “Several posters here seem to be overlooking the fact that this particular student was the only one given this assignment. She was told it would be an oral presentation, and the assignment was given to her after school hours.”

    So what? It’s called one-on-one instruction, the kind that parents are supposed to want for their children. That’s why teacher-to-student ratios are important. Too many students, not enought attention per student.

    And what kind of education is your child going to get if teachers aren’t allowed to stray from the “approved” curriculum. Pretty narrow and incomplete, in my opinion, especially if the student is brighter than average.

    Who would want to be a teacher under these circumstances? Or a student, for that matter?

  25. I’m puzzled at how many comments seek to defend the teacher and fault the parents here. Some even seem to suggest that putting a 13 yr old in high school is “asking for it.” (BTW, I was 13 at the start of high school without skipping ahead.)

    No, the material isn’t ridiculously explicit. Nor is it G-rated. Singling out a particular student for the material and then asking creepy questions is simply bad judgment. It may have been a big misunderstanding, but this teacher made several big errors in judgment along the way. The parents do not appear to have over-reacted based on what they knew, and who on earth would have a heart-to-heart with the teacher before contacting the authorities if they thought their child might be at risk?

  26. @#32: Did they have graphic novels like this when you went to high school? Just wondering. Anyway, who says these aren’t literature and worthy of study? I think they are.

    Per the circumstances, I would reiterate my comments in #31. I would hesitate before assuming that all teachers are sexual predators and should never be able to speak to a student after class. They were in the classroom, were they not? Correct me if I’m wrong, but he didn’t meet with her at his house, or suggest any such thing, did he?

    Per “graphic graphic novels,” see #29: “There is literally one image of a topless woman in a shower; the rest of the adult content is conversations between the characters.” Surely that’s acceptable for a 13 year old in 21st century America?

    But like some other commenters here, I am still appalled by the parents’ actions. Going to the police was not appropriate. One normally does this when a crime has been committed, after all. No crime was committed here.

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