Friday, May 5, 2006

Hot for Teacher: Former Porn Star Teacher Dismissed by School

Sch_building_3In my last law review article, The (Neglected) Importance of Being Lawrence, I examined the impact of Lawrence v. Texas on the sexual privacy rights of public employees. 

My argument there was that, post-Lawrence, courts should apply a Pickering-esque constitutional balancing test to determine whether public employers can constitutionally interfere with their employee's off-duty conduct in matters pertaining to sex.

In testing the contours of my new constitutional test, one hypothetical I explored in my article was that of a Jenna Jameson-like public school teacher, who did more than a competent job teaching during the day, but whose after-hour activities made her employers more than just a little uncomfortable.

Using my modified Pickering test borrowed from First Amendment jurisprudence, I  balanced the efficiency concerns of the employer against the substantive due process rights of the teacher to decisional non-interference in her private affairs.  I suggested that because of the significant disruption that employing a porn star would cause to the school environment, the school could most likely terminate her employment without violating the employee's substantive due process rights.

Now comes an article concerning a real-world case involving a public high school teacher in Paducah, Kentucky who ten years ago produced a professional X-rated videotape and which tape just came to the attention of the school community.  Although the teacher regrets her actions, is embarassed by the tape, and never plans to do anything like it again, she has been placed on administrative leave by the school district with the understanding that her contract will not be renewed. The local teacher's association is deciding whether or not to sue on her behalf.

As much as I symphathize with the plight of the teacher (especially because she appears to have been suffering from bipolar disease at the time the tape was made), based on my post-Lawrence Pickering analysis, it will be hard for the teacher to prevail on constitutional grounds.  This is because the school district will be able to make a strong case that her continued employment at the school, where students and parents knows of her lurid past, will cause substantial disruption to the operation of the school.  And even if such disruptions does not occur, the school seems to have a further interest in protecting its image and credibility in the community and hiring role models for its students.

All that being said, public employees in future cases concerning sexual off-duty conduct should have a better chance of prevailing under a Lawrence-based approach where issues of disprution and maintaining image are less crucial to the public employer.


Commentary | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Hot for Teacher: Former Porn Star Teacher Dismissed by School:

» Blawg Review #56: Sex, Virtual Weddings, and Baseball from PointOfLaw Forum
It's been a busy week in the legal blogosphere. We're a committed group blog here at Point of Law, so we teamed up to cover the many topics summarized below. A big thanks to Larry Ribstein, Tom Kirkendall, Ted Frank,... [Read More]

Tracked on May 8, 2006 6:14:14 AM


Let me get this straight. A repentant teacher is supposed to be harmful to the school district's image?

Posted by: Dodo David | May 7, 2006 4:25:48 PM

This is the Bible belt here in West KY. The 3rd question you are asked is "What church do you attend?" when you move here.

Redemption is preached from every pulpit, forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life. UNLESS, it hits too close to home for the congregation. Then it's just eternal damnation.

God forgives, the religious Nazis don't.

Posted by: Rich | Dec 19, 2007 3:39:47 PM

Post a comment