A teacher at an Arizona high school has been put on paid administrative leave following an allegation by some students that the teacher dressed like the devil and said “Hail Satan” in a classroom.
Nathaniel Hamlet, a student at Mesa High School, told NBC affiliate KPNX that he went to class on Oct. 25 and noticed that his teacher, who has not been publicly identified, was wearing devil horns and carrying a pitchfork. Hamlet alleged that the teacher was waving the pitchfork over his classmates’ heads and saying, “Hail Satan.”
“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,” Hamlet added, saying what the teacher allegedly did was an affront to his faith.
After the alleged incident, Nathaniel told his father, Chris Hamlet, who is Christian and has school board ties. Chris Hamlet then notified the school’s principal, and an investigation began.
“Mesa Public Schools administration was notified of an alleged incident at Mesa High School late Wednesday (10/25) afternoon after school hours,” the school told PEOPLE in a statement. “Our Human Resources department began the investigation Thursday (10/26) morning and placed the teacher on paid administrative leave pending the result of the investigation.”
The teacher at the center of the alleged incident later told the news station that the attire was part of Halloween spirit week. The teacher noted that their colleague next door wore an angel outfit in keeping with the theme of dynamic duos.
“Participating in spirit weeks like this is a way for me to engage with my students and bring fun to my classroom,” the teacher told the outlet. “It’s truly not any more complicated than that.”
Meanwhile, Nathaniel Hamlet said the teacher should be let go after what allegedly happened.
“I was livid because I am a Christian as well, obviously,” Chris Hamlet also told KPNX. “What really tipped it over for me is, he kept telling him no, and he and the teacher kept persisting.”
But some parents of other students told KPNX that while they disagreed with the teacher’s choice of attire, a firing might seem too extreme.
According to the school, their investigation “remains ongoing.”