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Does Past Porn Career Justify Firing?

When it was learned that a sixth-grade teacher at the Young Women's STEAM Academy in Dallas had appeared in porn more than a decade ago, she was placed on administrative leave pending her dismissal  ("Teacher fired because she used to work in porn," New York Post, Feb. 1).  Although the school district subsequently ruled that her past did not constitute a policy violation, its initial action is troubling.

There was a time when "moral turpitude" or words to that effect were cause to deny applicants a teaching credential.  But what constitutes moral turpitude?  Although Reba Woodward, the teacher in question, exercised extremely poor judgment, there were extenuating circumstances.  She was in desperate financial straits, and was exploited by her ex-boyfriend to engage in porn films. 

I don't believe that her past behavior should have been the basis for removing her from the classroom. She has expressed sincere remorse for her actions, and most importantly is regarded as a good teacher at her all-girls school, which ironically prides itself on empowerment for women. I disagree with the claim that her presence in the classroom sets a bad example.  Isn't rehabilitation the real goal?  Or is that empty rhetoric? She certainly poses no threat to the safety and welfare of her students. 

Let's not forget that it was not so long ago that gay teachers feared for their jobs if their sexual orientation ever was revealed. Moreover, teachers seeking a California teaching credential in the early 1960s had to swear that they had never been a member of the Communist party. I never understood why either of these things were an issue.  I still don't.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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