New York Teacher Left Unemployed After Writing Column About Prior Work As Sex Worker

We have followed a disturbing trend of teachers, and other public employees, who have been fired for activities in their private lives, including jobs previously held in the entertainment or sex industries. Now, an elementary teacher in the Bronx, Melissa Petro, has lost her job because she wrote a column in the Huffington Post on her brief stint as a sex worker. Dubbed the “Hooker Teacher,” Petro was shown the door at the demand of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In the column, Petro objected to the move to block people from using Craigs List for sexual services and added this bombshell: “From October 2006 to January 2007, I accepted money in exchange for sexual services I provided to men I met online in what was then called the ‘erotic services’ section of” The column by Petro caused a firestorm of controversy from a cover story in the New York Post to an array of blog and print stories. Now, in a Salon article, Petro details how the label as the “Hooker teacher” has barred her from getting another job despite an excellent record that includes two master’s degrees, five years’ experience in nonprofit work and three years as a teacher.

The story raises the question of why a teacher cannot write about such experiences in her private life and advocate for similarly situated people. She is not saying that she is currently a prostitute. I also doubt that elementary students are going to be reading the article and most are unlikely to know of or understand the controversy. My concern is that this growing list of discarded teachers and employees creates a chilling effect on the free speech and association of citizens who are not given any concrete guideline as to what is considered unacceptable viewpoints or speech. The result is that teachers may over-compensate and avoid any speech or associations that could be challenged by any parent. I realize there must be some ability for a school to deal with extreme cases but I am unsure of what standard applies to give notice to teachers. It also seems to me that any controversy now caused by a teacher’s writings or statements in his or her private life can be used as a basis for termination.

We have previously seen teachers (Here, England, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here), here, here, students (here and here) and other public employees (here and here and here) fired for their private speech or conduct, including school employees fired for posing in magazines (here), appearing on television shows in bikinis (here), or having a prior career in the adult entertainment industry (here).

I have only read a few quotes for Petro’s writings but the objections appear to be her admission that she was once a sex worker and her failure to denounce such work by others (and supporting their use of Craigs List). Should that be the basis for forcing a teacher out of her job? What do you think?

Source: AOL

42 thoughts on “New York Teacher Left Unemployed After Writing Column About Prior Work As Sex Worker”

  1. This brings to fore the topic of teaching as a career choice. Probably 99% of the readers of this blog have already chosen their profession in life. But many have children, nieces, nephews who are out there in life at the vortex of some path in the college level –is is law, medicine, business, college teaching or high school or lower grades of teaching. Teaching below the college level is a poor career choice in America, unless: you have no free will, are a sheep, a goat, have no political convictions, care not about your fellow teachers, care not about the lot of the non conforming student. In my prior incarnation as a human I had a number of friends, fellow classmates, who fell into teaching at the grade school or high school level. Of these folks the old saw about teachers is so true. Almost all of them went in dumb and come out dumb too. But the dumbest are principals. Go to your high school class reunion and see what the former football jocks are doing now or did until their dotage lifted them into retirement. Those who can: Do; Those who cant: Teach; those who cant teach: Preach to Teachers.
    I have modified it a bit to include the Principals at the end of the line there.

    This too, is why most dogs abhor Dog Schools, Kennels, and all the Sit Up Fido! People of the world. Now, if we get to roam PetSmart with a full line of credit and a prosperous Dog Pal (no dog ever says Owner), then one is in Dog Heaven. No self respecting dog would ever set paw in some public or catholic grade school in NYC. We lose our self respect in the first catagory and our rear ends in the later..

  2. Richard,

    Your first two paragraphs hit the nail on the head.

    However, blaming what happened to that teacher on “progressives” is off the mark. I’d be willing to bet that the bulk of the complaints and the bulk of the people who find her past affiliation “unacceptable” are not progressives but most likely rather regressive religious folk. It is these same regressives (see most of the GOP presidential candidates) with their ignorance of common sense and inordinate embrace of “God’s word” that will introduce a type of shariah law into this country if we allow it.

    I do understand that our civil liberties are under attack from BOTH sides, but to blame one sect for the problem is irresponsible and somewhat dangerous IMHO.

  3. If you want to see spineless jellyfish, there’s no need to go to an aquarium. Just visit your local school board. Rounded-end scissors? Don’t worry, we have a zero-tolerance policy for knives and guns. Aspirin or prescribed medication? We have zero-tolerance policy for drugs. Critical thought? We definitely have a zero-tolerance policy for that. Any quack or crank can take their idiocy to a local school and have the administration jumping through hoops to accommodate them.

  4. For me, the most troubling aspect of this particular situation is that NYC apparently cannot/will not fire teachers and administrators who are obviously and pathetically incompetent. Why? Apparently it’s very easy to fire a teacher if something about the teacher ruffles the self-righteousness of one of the highly placed progressives in the political system
    Methinks this is just another example of the ferocious assault on our lives, liberties and happiness. It’s part of the divide and conquer and make them fearful of gov procedures that are part and parcel of the progressives stunningly successful continuing take over of our country. Dictators throughout time have have been apt at applying these techniques. How close are we to living under a tyranny? I think that all it will take is for one national emergency to pop up (probably conveniently right before the 2012 Nov election).

    We need to start preparing for and proceeding at taking back this country and restoring the God of Creation as undisputed leader. To think that we can appease the very destructive progressives by giving in to them so we don’t upset them is like feeding raw meat to a man eating tiger in an attempt to turn it into a vegetarian. Or to tax and spend our way to prosperity. Same lie, different words.

  5. As long as your personal life does not negatively impact your work life why is it anyones business? It seems to me that far too often those who have the biggest problem with this divide are those who have the most to hide.

    Heck a lot of teachers around here probably wish they could hook, it pays better and gets about equal respect form most people.

  6. She displayed rather poor judgment, e.g., using her own name. Her students may not have read the column or understood her previous occupation (actually one or two precocious students in the school might have read it), but parents may have read it. I’d be a little shocked if she was the teacher of my child, but through my research work in HIV prevention, I’ve known a lot of people who have engaged in one form of transactional sex or another, and I wouldn’t be a blue nose about. The problem here is that teachers are figures of authority not only for children, but also for their parents and my professional experience aside, many if not most parents would be uncomfortable with this. She should have used a pseudonym.

    If the economy was in better shape, one could advise her to go into real estate, a field that regularly attracts burnedout, laid off or occupationally unhappy teachers. It would be a place where “whoreish” behavior is well rewarded, although I say that knowing that it insults actual sex workers. I’m only being slightly facetious. One of the major commercial real estate brokers in my former city of residence had worked for many years in porn and escorted, as well.I know someone else with a similar background who does very well selling high end men’s clothing.

  7. This is not surprising as the parents probably were calling and complaining constantly. It is shame as those teaching jobs in NYC pay well and have good benefits.

  8. mespo,

    The story I posted is about a student….54…at oakland university that wrote a paper for his graduate degree in A critical writing class hot for the teacher…..

  9. I wish I could say only in America but as your examples show this disgraceful practise of firing people for things they do in private is carried on here in the UK too.

    I once wrote a constitution for a newly formed district committee and in it I was very careful to tie down the committee’s powers to suspend or remove someone such that they could only do it in relation to something done while representing the committee, which I also carefully defined such that it could not be said a person being a committee member always represented the committee.

    These broad spectrum powers really need to be challenged. While I wouldn’t want to work somewhere I’m not wanted no mayor should have the power to summarily remove someone and any question or disciplinary hearing should be confidential.

    Did you know that if you complain about a judge in Texas the rules state that the panel that deals with it cannot name the judge in corrispondance; they can only refer to the case number and the collective noun, judge. That’s the kind of protections we should all have.

  10. In my career, I have come across any number of professional women who worked as call girls early in life. Some paid their way through graduate school to a doctorate that way. Others, just to survive.

    Bloomberg’s hypocrisy, like that of many politicians, knows no bounds. Lessee, what do they call people who perform favors for money….ummmm…the word starts with a ‘w’ as I recall. There is a big building in Washington, DC where five or six hundred of them supply ‘services’ to their johns. Much bigger whorehouse than the Mustang Ranch.

  11. Bloomberg…..wanted her fired for being a what…. now exactly how did he make his money….. oh yeah… making people feel good about getting screwed out of their money…. hmmmmm…..

  12. Interesting case. Why she used her real name is beyond me, but her past experience in that field is troubling as a teacher. I do believe she should not have been fired for it, but I am guessing that she skipped that work on her resume! The school district should not be allowed to fire a teacher for expressing her first amendment rights outside of school.

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