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A Teacher's Porn Star Past Shouldn't Be Grounds for Firing

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During an 8 month period, from 2005-06, Stacie Halas starred in pornographic movies. According to her attorney, she did this because of financial problems. She went on to become an accredited science teacher, but was fired from her job at a public school in Oxnard, Calif. when it was discovered she used to appear in pornography. On Friday, January 11 a three-judge panel unanimously denied Halas's appeal and upheld the firing.

Halas has committed no crime; there is a huge difference between being a sex worker and a sex offender. Pornography, so long as it does not involve children, has been repeatedly protected by U.S. courts as a form of free expression. So, in effect, Halas has lost a government job because of her past legal speech. What's more she has lost her job at a time when California has repeatedly said it has a huge shortage of teachers, especially math and science teachers.

A part of the ruling reads:

"Although her pornography career has concluded, the ongoing availability of her pornographic materials on the Internet will continue to impede her from being an effective teacher and respected colleague."

In 2013 this seems to an unreasonable standard. Because of the Internet, virtually anything anyone has ever done will now have "ongoing availability" forever.

According to the Associated Press:

"[Halas] had hoped to set a precedent for people looking to escape an embarrassing past, but a three-judge commission was unanimous in its decision. They said Halas, 32, was continually deceitful about her past."

That Halas was less than forthcoming about her past should have had no bearing on the decision. If she had been "deceitful about her past" as a bartender or a musician, would that have justified removing her from her position as a science teacher? No, it's obvious that it's the nature of the past work that cost Halas her job, and it's also obvious that that past work was both legal and constitutionally protected.

It seems to me that this is a case for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Allowing an individual to lose a government job because of past legal work, or because of past legal expression, is a dangerous precedent. It is, in a way, similar to the blacklisting of suspected communists in the mid-20th century. Add to that that if a person can't reinvent themselves after doing a completely legal job, what hope is there for employment for the 7 million Americans in prison or on parole?

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