A play on Debbie Does Dallas, today’s post focuses on teachers’ past professions, and how we decide who is worthy to teach our children and who is not. My local hip hop morning show covered a story about a teacher being fired because her past in the porn profession had been discovered. If the news out of St. Louis (where this took place) is to be believed, she actually asked for administrative leave but in the business that conversation basically shook down to this:

Administrator: We can’t technically fire you because you didn’t do anything illegal, but now that this is public it would probably be better for you to resign.

Teacher: Okay.

Tericka Dye (and that isn’t her porn name) taught high school science in the Parkway School District in St. Louis. She is 38 years old and more than 15 years ago (for the math challenged that puts her at about age 23) she lived in California and made some adult movies to get by as a single mom.

This isn’t the first time Dye has come under attack for this. In 2006 she worked in Kentucky as a science teacher and volleyball coach, and even though her fellow teachers stood beside her, she decided to move on to another state.

23 years old only came about 5 years ago for me and some of the decisions I made then are still affecting me today. This woman is almost 40 years old and is still being punished for a job choice she made in the mid-90s. It wasn’t illegal, so it didn’t show up on the background check, but because it is morally shady parents and administrators don’t want her around the kids. For something she did 15 years ago.

You guys realize she’s not showing the kids porn, right? She’s not making a porn in front of them? Why can’t this be used as a teachable moment, where the kids learn that teachers aren’t virgins and saints and they don’t have to be either as long as they learn from their mistakes. Schools all across the country still require teachers to avoid alcohol, adult toy shops, and some of the more religious schools even forbid their teachers from dancing and watching rated R movies.

Do you know how hard it is to become a high school science teacher? It’s one of the more difficult tracks in an education degree, the students have to have content knowledge in chemistry, biology, and physics in addition to learning about pedagogy and classroom management. And in a world that is typically reserved for men (high school teaching), Dye had to have been pretty smart and determined to not only teach high school science, but to go from one school rejecting her to another, just to face the same rejection again.

Other members of society who do highly illegal things face the same persecution, but they are usually caught on background checks before they are even hired: felons, murderers, child molesters; if their past is on record, chances are they won’t end up in front of your children. Dye’s past is on record, but it’s old and not illegal. Yet she also isn’t allowed into a profession for which she has been deemed qualified in two separate states (Kentucky and Missouri).

This story comes with three lessons. Two are the hard truth and one speaks to a deep sociological problem in this country.

1. Children need to be taught that ALL actions have consequences. Whether you do something at age 15, 21, or 50 that action could have the potential to haunt you for the rest of your life.

2. The interwebz has a memory like an elephant and arms like an octopus that grab all information past and present and put it out there for people to see. The internet is dangerous, so be careful what you do and what you put up on it (in this case Dye probably didn’t choose to have her past on display, but since she probably signed some kind of a waiver back then she doesn’t have a choice now either.)

3. This obsession that America has with its teachers has got to change. We have the same expectations for teacher behavior now (more or less) than we did in the 1950s or even the late 19th century. We complain about a teacher shortage but we get rid of perfectly good teachers who have done something that we find morally displeasing. We want students learning math and science and winning the future!TM but we’re getting rid of their teachers for moral reasons instead of performance issues or criminal problems. It reminds me of the translator discharges in the military due to their sexual orientation when the government was bemoaning the lack of translators.

I’m not saying that we should let everyone who wants to be a teacher teach. Some people do have backgrounds that are not suited to public employment, especially in education. However if someone has done nothing illegal, is a responsible adult who is a good teacher who shows up to work and likes her job, why are we punishing her for something she did as a child? Why aren’t we screaming “justice!” and saying that she took her second chance and earned a new chance at life? Why isn’t someone suing the pants off of someone and demanding equal treatment? Why does the former adult film star simply hang her head and walk quietly into the night when she should either (a) be demanding to keep her job, or (b) be demanding to have her photos taken off the internet (although at this point that would be difficult I think) as they are slandering her and interfering with her ability to live her life.

We can’t all be 40 year old virgins whose parents paid for our college and helped us get that internship that landed us a great job at the firm of our dreams. Some Americans grow up in a broken home, try to get away, find their only employment making adult movies so they can support the child they had out of wedlock, and once they make enough money they manage to get out of that trap as well to become certified as a teacher and discover that they love teaching and coaching. Come on guys, isn’t that essentially pulling yourself up by the bootstraps (or g-string, depending)? Didn’t this woman do what every American is encouraged to do?

When are we going to start letting go of these ridiculous stereotypes? When is America going to unclench her asshole and realize that some people just want to live normal lives? Ms. Dye doesn’t want to donkey punch your child. She just wants to teach them about how electricity works.

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