SmackDown: Should a Former Prostitute Be Allowed to Teach in Public School?
Being an Ex-Hooker Isn't the Same as Being an Ex-Accountantby Jessica Samakow
"So tell me something unique about you that isn't on your resume," inquires an elementary school principal.
"Oh, I used to be a prostitute," the prospective teacher replies.
"Perfect! You're hired!"
In what bizarre world would this conversation ever take place, you ask? Answer: The Bronx.
Okay, so maybe elementary school art teacher Melissa Petro's interview didn't exactly include the dialogue above. But it may as well have. According to the New York Post, Petro posted an essay this month claiming she also had been a prostitute.
Using her real name and picture, Petro writes, "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 Craigslist.org" in the Huffington Post.
Petro goes on to explain how her lack of pimp usage somehow made her Craigslist experience safe and convenient. And she claims that her chosen channel of prostitution made her "no more a 'professional' than a person renting a room on the same site" because these people, of course, are not necessarily professional real estate brokers. Somehow, I don't see the correlation. Any way you slice it, a prostitute is a prostitute. I am not quite sure what separates a "professional prostitute" from an "amateur" one.
The self-proclaimed "non-pro" writes in the Huffington Post, "I found the lifestyle physically demanding, emotionally taxing and spiritually bankrupting, and so I made a decision to desist some months after I'd gotten started, exiting the industry just as freely as I'd entered."
Her next move? Becoming an art teacher at an elementary school in the Bronx. While her decision to exit the industry may deserve a pat on the back, I believe that Petro's past should deem her unqualified to be a teacher at an elementary school.
To my knowledge, at the very least, teachers must not have a criminal record if they are to be considered for jobs. So, Petro may have a clear record because she was never formally charged with prostitution. The fact of the matter is, however, that prostitution is illegal. Whether she has run into trouble with the law or not, accepting money for sexual acts is against the law. If Petro had admitted online that she used to rob banks, she likely would not be able to keep her job. We would hope not, at least. Why is this any different?
In today's ever-growing cyber world, published information is impossible to hide. Petro admits that she has not even tried to be cautious about disguising her past on the web. She is aware that her colleagues are "googling" her and that this could be a potential threat to her job. And if your colleagues are "googling you," you better believe that your students are as well.
The students may be young, but they've grown up with Google as their encyclopedia and are undoubtedly curious to find out what their teachers are up to outside of school. In high school, I found a CD that my Spanish teacher's husband, a Jewish cantor, released. Last year, I found a college professor's blog about her adventure to Taiwan. Embarrassing as my Google habit might be, I know that I am not alone.
There is a good chance that Petro's students are too young to even know what a prostitute is. So upon their findings, variations of, "Mommy, what's a prostitute? Can I be one?" probably will follow. It is no wonder that parents are outraged by the exposure of Petro's past and do not want her teaching their kids.
Some might argue that there is a shortage of teachers in less fortunate neighborhoods and that finding them is a difficult task. This may be true, but I hardly think that the "adult services" section on Craigslist is the best place to start looking.
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.