Ex-Prostitute Teacher Should be Allowed Back in Classroom

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

A teacher at an elementary school in the Bronx has been taken out of the classroom after she wrote an article for the Huffington Post admitting that she had been a prostitute.

Melissa Petro was disappointed the Adult Services section of popular website Craigslist had been shut down: in the piece she wronte in early September, she said during the few months she performed sex work, she had counted on Craigslist as “a simple, familiar forum through which I could do my business with complete anonymity, from the safety and convenience of my own home.”

When coworkers Googled Petro and discovered her article, the art teacher was reassigned to administrative work while the school opened an investigation - presumably, the school is trying to decide if they should terminate Petro or if her previous sex work has no bearing on her work as a teacher.

As both a mother and a modern woman, I realize Petro's situation raises some difficult questions. Sex work has been around since time immemorial: there's a reason why it's called "the oldest profession."

Sometimes money gets tight, and a woman has to find a job in a pinch: sex work can often bring in fast, much-needed cash while she figures out what "legitimate" career avenue to pursue next. (Some women view sex work as a legitimate career path in and of itself.) It's not as if Petro is continuing to sell her body while also teaching elementary school art: she abandoned her career as a call girl before beginning to work as an art teacher. 

However, it's currently illegal to prostitute oneself in the state of New York. A teacher who repeatedly broke the law isn't the best role model for young children. By publicizing her past as a prostitute, she's also not presenting herself as a great mentor for kids -- especially young girls. While sex work is an element of real-world life that's not going to change any time soon, teachers should be encouraging young girls to use their brains, artistic ability and athleticism, not their sexuality, to forge a life path for themselves.

Melissa Petro shouldn't have been so open about her past sex work: if her students discover this facet of her life, it may confuse them, especially if she's a good teacher and they want to emulate other parts of her personality.

However, Petro's no longer a call girl. She's now using her brain, not her sexuality, to create a career for herself. I don't believe she should be removed from her classroom permanently - but she should definitely zip her lip when it comes to her previous incarnation as a prostitute, at least for as long as she's going to be teaching young kids.