There is an appeal filed in Dallas by a teacher, Resa Woodward, 38, who was fired because of her prior work in the adult film industry almost two decades ago. We have previously discussed such cases, which I find troubling because these are people who worked in a lawful industry. It is even more concerning when, as here, the individual claims that she was forced into the industry as a form of “sex slavery.”
Woodward taught sixth-grade science at an all-girls STEAM academy at Balch Springs Middle School. However, someone exposed her work some 16 years earlier in pornography and she was fired. She has appealed to the Texas Education Agency.
She has explained that she was in an abusive relationship and eventually walked away from the relationship and the industry. She turned her life around as a teacher in in North Carolina and Florida and later Texas. Along the way, she earned a master’s degree.
As a teacher, she earned the highest rating of “exemplary” in the schools distinguished teacher program and was a nominee for district teacher of the year. She achieved other recognitions for her teaching skills. She begged for people to show a modicum of understanding and mercy: “Please tell me this is not the end. Do not penalize me for a dark saga in my youth that was not of my making.”
While I understand the difficulty presented by such cases for schools, I find it problematic that schools can fire people for their work in lawful industries due to the objections of some to the underlying morality of the field. In her termination letter, the district said that she was fired because her previous work “in adult content media” was accessible on the internet and available to the public. It added that such access “casts the District in negative light and adversely affects the District.”
Adding to the difficulties for Woodward is the fact that she missed a critical deadline and failed to properly appeal the decision.
Both teachers and even students have faced such disciplinary actions for work in the industry. Even a lunch lady was subject to such discipline. Some teachers have succeeded in challenging such decisions. This may be my libertarian tendencies but I find punishing people due to their lawful lifestyles or professions to be troubling. I have previously written about the increasing monitoring and discipline of teachers for conduct in their private lives. I recognize the disruptive aspects of having a teacher with such images on the Internet. However, we have seen teachers disciplined for images of drinking wine in Florida or engaging in dancing deemed inappropriate. The question is how much discretion is allowed in barring people who have committed no crime or simply engaged in activities that some consider immoral. Is it enough for a district to declare that something you have done in the past would be disruptive? What is the activity was more artistic like nude acting scenes or interpretive dancing? My concern is always focused on how to draw such lines and who is given such authority.
What do you think?