Craigslist “Adult Services” Proponent Fired by School District

Sch_building Interesting education and employment law story in the New York Times brought to my attention by one of my employment law students:

A teacher at a Bronx elementary school has been reassigned after writing on a Web site about her past as a sex worker.

In a short online article in The Huffington Post on Sept. 7, the teacher, Melissa Petro, criticized Craigslist for shutting down its “adult services” section, which carried sex-related advertising.

Ms. Petro wrote that from October 2006 to January 2007, she “accepted money in exchange for sexual services I provided to men I met online.”

She said that she used Craigslist to meet men and it provided “a simple, familiar forum through which I could do my business with complete anonymity, from the safety and convenience of my own home.”

This is a fairly standard public employee free speech case applying the Pickering framework, probably coming down to whether the online article in question substantially disrupted the teacher’s ability to be an effective teacher in the school (by dint of her relationship with her supervisors, colleagues, parents, or students). When you are talking about elementary school, you also have to consider concerns about good role models and the impressionable age of the children.

The interesting part to me and my student was the tenure part. Most tenure protections at the K-12 level provide some type of statutory just cause protection.  Did the school district have good cause to terminate her based on exposing herself (pun intended) as a former prostitute?  Who knows how an arbitrator might rule, but I think good cause could be found.  So as long as the school district here affords the proper procedural protections a la Roth and Sindermann, I do not see a problem with the school district’s actions.

Do I condone the firing personally?  That’s a hard one, especially since I have children currently in elementary school.  I can’t imagine her past occupation coming up in the classroom or the children finding out (unless a parent shares this information with their children), but really who knows?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.