Can a teacher go topless?

Apparrently not in Austin, Texas.

I considered going to the pit for this, and it may wind up there.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Until they found the topless photos, Austin High School officials considered Tamara Hoover an excellent art teacher with a knack for helping students find their creativity.

What happened is that topless pictures of Ms. Hoover wound up on the internet. The pictures are described as art. Apparently, no sexual activity was involved, though I’m not sure that matters for the purposes of my argument.

I’m most concerned about these two paragraphs:

*The school district said the photos were inappropriate and violate the “higher moral standard” expected of public school teachers. As she was escorted out of class last month she was told that she’s become an ineffective teacher.

The district wants to revoke her teaching certification, which would keep her out of Texas classrooms permanently. Hoover will appeal the ruling and is prepared to take the case to court, she said.*

I see no logical nexus in her ability to teach and the existence of nude pictures on the internet. I see no threat of harm to a child by the existence of those pictures. Teachers don’t forfeit the right to freedom of expression in their personal lives by virtue of accepting employment with the State or political subdivisions thereof. There is no mention of her being charged with any crime. Perhaps she is guilty of choosing unwisely in posing for the pictures, given where she lives, but even that is arguable.

As I see it, firing the woman is bad enough, and probably grounds for a lawsuit. Trying to revoke her teaching certification is outrageous. If she was a good teacher before the pictures were posted, she’s still a good teacher.

That said, I’m not sure how the US Supreme Court would rule on this, considering recent changes on the bench. I miss Justice O’Conner…not that I ever even met her, or always agreed with her, but her vote was pretty important in close cases.

What sayeth the Dopers?

On the one hand, these were apparently not erotic pictures, and the nude form is a traditional art subject. In that case, it seems no different from an English teacher writing a novel whose content a few folks might be offended by.

On the other hand, I know some job contracts have “morals clauses,” where you agree to abide by a certain standard of behavior, even outside of your workplace. I know that, for example, many newspapers have codes of ethics which do not allow their journalists to be overtly political (e.g. becoming president of the local Democratic or Republican election committee).

The Post-Register of Idaho Falls, Idaho, has posted its ethics policy online. Under the heading “Act Independently,” the policy says:

So it certainly has precedent. Without knowing what the teacher’s actual contract said, I’m on the fence.

I don’t see a First Amendment claim against the newspaper, because it is a private company and not a governmental entity. The school district is a political subdivision of the State, and possibly vulnerable to a First Amendment claim.

That is true. I had not considered that angle.

BAH…clicked wrong and truncated myself.

The contract issue is interesting. I could see an argument that she breached her contract with the school district, so she was lawfully fired. Don’t think that could extend to revoking her teaching certification, though.

I’m not sure how one could argue low morality when having nudes come in to model is a tradition in art class.

Nude Models in a high school art class? I know it’s common in college, but I’ve never heard of it in high school before…

I’m saying it’s a tradition of the profession. The nude probably beats out the Virgin Mary. Saying somehow that it’s indecent when nudity is at the core of the entire profession is silly.

You may as well fire a high school history teacher for putting up on his home webpage something which mentions that the dinosaurs lived more than 6000 years ago (given that God didn’t create the world until then.)

Here’s some of the actual pics…

They’re artsy, but some have a definite sexual tone, not just strictly ‘art nude’.

Like it or not primary school teachers are still part babysitter and she should have known better. If it were college, no problemo. But not high school, no way.

Plus I forgot to mention that, in case the link stops working, she’s not just topless. She’s totally nude in many of the pics. One is even a full frontal close-up (strategically darkened).

She didn’t hand the pictures out. Her pictures were on the internet with the other several thousand pictures of nude models. That one of her pervert students happened to come across hers is bad luck to be certain, but allowing unsupervised internet access is what brought up a picture of a naked lady on the students computer. If they hadn’t found hers, they would have found a thousand others.

And what they found was art, and art in the most traditional style.

No, she didn’t hand them out to her students, but her personal responsibility includes more than that. She shouldn’t have even posed for them let alone place them or allow them to be placed in public view (which posting on the internet is exactly equivalent to). That’s just common sense for a high school teacher.

I don’t think she’s a horrible person or anything. She’s just either a bit pretentious or a bit naive…

I’m not saying it wasn’t a stupid thing to do given the realities of the US as it stands. But the realities of the US as it stands are silly–not to mention unconstitutional.

The government is not allowed to subscribe to the foibles of any particular religion. As it was a public high school and not a religious one, there is no legal foot on which the school may act to proclaim that the historical tradition of all art is to somehow now be immoral. The best they could do would be to cite “showing pornography to minors”, but she didn’t do that.

I viewed those pics. Yes, some of them could arguably be considered erotic. I found them generally tasteful, with reasonable artistic merit. Still not understanding what the existence of those pictures has to do with her ability to teach…

Were the pictures taken before, or after this “contract” of morality?

Breaucrats. Can’t live with 'em, better off without 'em.

We don’t know for sure that there was an applicable clause in her contract.

And, my apologies for the live link. I didn’t realize that would happen with the quote feature.

But how, exactly, does this violate her contract’s moral clause? She had some pictures taken, and in some of them, she was nude. She wasn’t doing porn. In what way does this lead to the moral decline of civilization as we know it?

She’s also gay (apparently- her girlfriend took the pictures). Would that have been sufficient to get her fired, as well? I’m betting she also has the occasional drink. Has she ever cussed? Watched an R-rated movie? Bounced a check? Burn 'er!

She’s an art teacher. Nudes occasionally happen in art. Hell, they’re a highly respected form of art. I’ve drawn nudes, many times. I’ve also posed. I suppose I shouldn’t be allowed near decent folk…

Is it that her students could download nekkid pics of her off the Internet? Aside from a bit of adolescent giggling, how does this affect her ability to teach? Are all of her students now doomed to lives of prostitution and drugs, just because she’s taught them that it’s okay to be naked around someone armed with a camera?

I’m pretty irritated at this case because Texas has a shortage of good teachers, already- and the teachers they DO have, are underpaid. Here we’ve got a good teacher who “inspires” her students, but who didn’t think it’d be a big deal to have some nude pictures taken of herself.

Honestly, I just don’t get America’s values any more. How is the human form so toxic that we can’t allow our children to ever see anyone nude?

Not necessarily defending the action here but speaking from a management standpoint I’d be concerned about her continuing to be an effective teacher with the distractions, giggling, etc that this would cause. I think it’s a definite hit on her position of authority for all except the more committed and objective art students. So strictly from a ‘theory of management’ point of view there’s an issue.

Not that I, for a minute, think they thought this through in this manner.

Assuming that she is an effective teacher, that will last all of two days until she starts handing out bad grades to the kids who are goofing off.

If she’s not embarassed about the photos, when the kids try to make fun of it, it’s not going to have any effect. Just the same as making jibes about the fat kid doesn’t effect the fat kid who just smiles and goes, “Yup, I’m fat. Good thing you noticed!” If the person who is the object of the joke doesn’t feel bad about whatever is being made fun of, the joke always falls flat.

One of my math teachers in high school (late eighties, early nineties) was in Penthouse back in the seventies. I scoffed, of course, until a fellow student brought in the issue. Yep. There she was. As well as her glories. (Wearing the same horrific oversized glasses that she wore to school everyday.) Turns out that every single year, a student “discovers” Ms. Jones’ picture and it gets passed around again. It being Penthouse, of course, there’s no “art” clause to hide behind. Chick was in a girly mag. The students giggle and snort and think it’s all “too gross” for words. Then they learn geography from one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.

Here’s some comments about her from one of those “Rate My Teacher” sites:
“Very good teacher, even though i’m not a geo person… I won’t ever forget part + part = whole in life and in geo.”, " I never liked math until this year. [Jones] has to be one of my best teachers of all time. She makes geometry fun and really easy! I love her class.", " She challenges you but man is she the coolest teacher ever, i dont think i have ever had a better teacher than her. KEEP IT UP [JONES]!"

Obviously, this is a problem that the school can get past if they just use their brains. Yes, the art teacher might have to suffer the giggles and snorts and reputation of being “that artsy dyke with nudie pics on the internet.” But really, what better way to built street cred among high schoolers? I’ll bet dollars to donuts that her students don’t have any real problem with it - it’s the administration and parents being sqeamish.

I’ll accept that it’s possible she’s signed some sort of morality clause. If that’s been broken, then obviously she needs to lose her job and perhaps even her license (if the Texas teacher’s license has a similar clause.) But I think that nude pictures on the internet should be made exceptions to that clause. Hell, if it isn’t, there’s going to be no one left to teach in ten years when all these friendster and myspace sluts try to get their teaching certificates! Posting nude pics of yourself on the internet is a rite of passage these days, isn’t it? :wink: