Perhaps you've seen the Rules for Conduct for Teachers promulgated by the Board of Education of Cabel County, W. Va., in 1915.
You will not marry during the term of your contract.
You are not to keep company with men.
You must wear at least two petticoats.
Your dress must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankles.
And you must sweep the floor daily, scrub it weekly and start the fire at 7 a.m.
It's the kind of list that gets passed around on the Internet these days, and who knows if it's authentic or apocryphal. Whatever its authenticity, it reflects the attitude American society had toward its teachers at one time. Indeed, in the Mahoning Valley the prohibition against married female teachers survived in some school districts right up until World War II.
Times change: This seven-paragraph acknowledgment of the fact that time has changed society's attitude toward teachers is prologue to a few questions. How much has it changed? Has it changed so much that it is now acceptable for a teacher to do double duty as a stripper or lap dancer? Does an employer have a legitimate interest in the off-duty activities of an employee?
Our answers are: A lot. But not that much. Yes.
And so we find ourselves in the case of a Boardman substitute teacher who was arrested during a raid on Bada Bing, a Market Street strip joint, recommending that the board of education cut her loose. Our position would be the same if a male teacher were dancing with the Chippendales, with or without an arrest for specific illegal activity.
Balancing rights: People have a right to be exotic dancers. Depending on local ordinances they may even have a right to give lap dances. And they have a right to be teachers, if they meet various educational and certification standards. But they don't have the right to be all of the above.
An employer, in this case a school district, has a right to demand that its employees not engage in activities that damage the employee's credibility or that interfere with the employee's ability to interact with clients or customers.
A middle school teacher who moonlights as a stripper has crossed that line.
In life, we make choices, and sometimes those choices are bad ones, with serious consequences. So it is with the 25-year-old substitute teacher. Her choice of summer employment was a bad one. And the last lesson she should be able to teach her students for some time is that making bad choices can be very painful and very costly.