Debate Center: Texas school district decides teacher is the wrong classroom model
Illustration: Dayton artist Elliot Ward
Cristy Nicole Deweese, a Texas resident, began modeling when she was 12 years old. After she entered college years later she landed modeling gigs for Playboy magazine. While working for Playboy, she posed in videos, photo shoots, was Coed of the Month in 2011 and was a Playboy Cyber Girl. Deweese left modeling after college and eventually became a high school Spanish teacher for the Dallas Independent School District.
According to many reports she was a good teacher and was well liked by her students. Problems, however, arose for Deweese earlier in October when the school district discovered she posed nude for Playboy. She was then swiftly fired. Apparently, students had discovered her photos online, and so did some of their parents, and when they learned of her modeling work they notified the school, which led to her termination.
On Oct. 10, the Dallas Morning News received Deweese’s termination letter from the school district. According to reports, the letter did not specifically cite Deweese was fired for posing nude in college. Rather, it just said “employees may be dismissed at any time for any reason not prohibited by law or for no reason, as determined by the needs of the district.” Deweese does not appear to be fighting the termination and instead claimed she is moving to Hawaii. She has even dusted off her old modeling page and is again seeking work as a professional model.
Opponents of the school district’s decision to fire Deweese believe the district is making much ado about nothing, and the teacher’s past work as a nude model in college should have no bearing on her ability in the classroom. They further add social media has been humming with support and pleas for Deweese’s return. Opponents say what she did was not illegal and was simply a job like any other to finance her education. Reports also state the school has not found a replacement for Deweese, and substitute teachers are presiding over her former students, and the students claimed they are not learning a whole lot right now.
Supporters of the school district’s decision say her nude photo shoots, one of which included a simulated lesbian sex scene, make Deweese’s past inappropriate for her job as a high school educator. Supporters go on to say because her photos are still on the Playboy website and available for viewing by any of her current students, they see this as a serious distraction at the least. They also question the perception her female students may have of her and whether her past modeling career damages her credibility as a role model in the classroom.
The latest statements by Deweese show she intends not to seek legal action because she states Texas’ “no fault” laws make it difficult to mount an unlawful termination case. Her supporters remain active, though, and stand firm in the belief she received a bad deal and still press for her return. Supporters of the school believe it did the right thing preventing someone with “inappropriate” prior experience from representing the school in the classroom.
Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at AlexCulpepper@DaytonCityPaper.com
Debate Forum Question of the Week:
Cristy Nicole Deweese has been fired from her teaching job in Texas because she claims the administration discovered she posed for Playboy while in college. Does a past stint posing nude for a magazine make a person an unfit teacher?
Debate Left: OMG! She was NUDE?!?
By Marianne Stanley
We give the soft-porn shows like “Dancing With the Stars” a massive American audience and, for sure, it’s not because the viewers are watching the dancers’ feet. We accept Playboy as a normal male magazine, even as one with some intellectual overtones in its selections of writers and articles. We patronize the hell out of such places as Hooters and almost exclusively use suggestive language, clothes and images in our national advertising. Our top comedies are rife with sexual content and blatant nuance. BUT, ever-true to our Puritan roots, while we’re admittedly a sex-crazed nation, we publically and dutifully punish females who seem to actually enjoy or flaunt their sexuality.
On the one hand, we encourage and actually almost force females in our culture to accentuate their bodies for male gratification (thus the term “eye candy”), while, on the other hand, we try to shame them with harsh words and judgments. I hate to break it to these folks, but it’s impossible to have it both ways. Either walk your talk by refusing to watch any sexually-themed shows or looking at any unclad or suggestively clad females, or quit talking – period.
Take a good look around. Has anyone checked out the pay for the kinds of jobs women are hired to fill? How much does a secretary get paid, for instance, despite the fact that those gals are worth their weight in gold with all the knowledge they possess and the glue they provide in holding organizations, and the people within them, together. Time after time, men are trained by and then promoted over women who are experienced and more than worthy of a managerial job and a decent living wage.
The one place women can make good money – and by that, I mean enough money to actually buy a home and a nice car and have some ease in their lives – is in the “flesh-for-sale” market, be it in print, a restaurant, bar, strip club, porn or modeling. For me, the memory is still vivid. I had just been accepted to law school but was barely scraping along on my pathetic income while working full time and rearing three young children when another woman in her 20s approached me and suggested that I join her in stripping since I “had the body.” She told me she had her own house and loved that she was not living from paycheck to paycheck anymore. The temptation was great since, while money may be the root of all evil, it is also the only way to put food on the table.
If our society demands female seductiveness and sexuality, if it rewards female nakedness and coquettishness, then the real immorality lies in its hypocrisy in punishing women who do precisely what has been made abundantly clear since girlhood that society wants them to do. This is even evident in the old saying that men want their wife to be like their mother but want their sex partner to be like a prostitute. I guess it never occurs to them that we can be all of the above in one person.
Should Cristy have been fired? Of course not. She made good money at a time when the best she probably could have hoped for was minimum wage. The fact that we are outraged at her posing nude is just a symptom of our stark duplicity and our sadly continuing embrace of the Puritan ethic that demonizes a healthy relationship with our bodies and our sexuality. This story actually makes abundantly clear the old adage, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Trite as the story is compared to the issues of our day, it does give us a starting point to talk about a stark inequality that needs to end.
Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at MarianneStanley@DaytonCityPaper.com.
Debate Right: At-will teacher was terminated under the law
By Rob Scott
Teachers have to be strong role models and educate our future engineers, doctors, business and community leaders, and more. Most importantly, teachers must exhibit character of being a good citizen and moral fiber.
The Cristy Nicole Deweese case in Texas finds a teacher described as good with a prior career choice. Though Deweese may not have committed any crime, sometimes certain decisions made earlier in life can affect your future career.
Deweese’s decision to pose for an adult-orientated magazine and websites possibly could have been enough. Regardless, Deweese was a probationary Spanish teacher who had not been fully tenured, the school district had a policy for their teachers and the Texas employment laws did not protect her.
According to the Texas State Teachers Union, after three years, public school teachers receive what’s commonly called “tenure,” a special employment protection that teachers’ unions defend. Typically, tenured teachers – as opposed to less-senior “probationary” teachers – are practically impossible to fire.
Also, Texas is a right-to-work state. Under Texas work laws, employment may not be conditioned or denied on the basis of membership or non-membership in a union, meaning Deweese was not required to be a member of the teachers union. Due to her status without a teacher’s contract and Texas being an employment-at-will state, employees without a written employment contract can be fired for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all. In an at-will situation, either the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without warning and with or without cause, unless there is an existing agreement with express terms and conditions covering its termination.
Of course, the employment-at-will doctrine is not without its limits, and Deweese could not be fired under certain exceptions. Terminations initiated by the employer must not be discriminatory or in violation of specific federal or state laws. For example, the employer is legally prohibited from taking any “adverse employment action” against an employee because of his or her race, gender, age, disability, national origin or any other legally protected characteristic or activity.
Protected activities include, but are not limited to: filing a complaint of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin or disability; filing a workers’ compensation claim; jury service; refusing to perform an illegal act; and reporting violations of law. Deweese’s prior career would not fall into any of these exceptions.
Finally, in order for Deweese to prevail in a wrongful termination suit and regain her employment, she would need to be able to point to clearly written policies by the school district. Also, she would need to be notified of the standards to which they will be held, which must be public – an unknown policy cannot be used against an ex-employee in an unemployment claim or any other kind of employment-related claim or lawsuit.
Deweese would need to show there was not a policy on record “regulating” prior conduct. According to the school, there is a provision in their handbook claiming teachers needed to uphold the highest moral and professional standards of being a teacher. The school claims her prior career posing in an adult-orientated magazine and on websites is a distraction for the classroom and is the wrong moral image for the students.
Taking all of these considerations, from the legal standpoint of the school and the duties of being a rounded teacher, the school district was more than justified in firing Deweese for her prior conduct.
Rob Scott is a practicing attorney at Oldham & Deitering, LLC. Scott is a Kettering City Councilman and founder of the Dayton Tea Party. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.gemcitylaw.com.