Debate 9/4: I wanna be a pole dancer

S choolteachers need to be aware of their “public” conduct because it may have an effect on their job longevity. The phrase “public conduct” appears in Kandice Mason’s employment contract because she’s a sixth-grade North Carolina schoolteacher. She’s also a single mom with strong credentials including a master’s in psychology, a B.A. in English, and […]

(just like my teacher)!

Q: Should the pole-dancing sixth-grade teacher’s posted Facebook video suffice as reason for employment suspension or termination?

By Paul Noah

Schoolteachers need to be aware of their “public” conduct because it may have an effect on their job longevity. The phrase “public conduct” appears in Kandice Mason’s employment contract because she’s a sixth-grade North Carolina schoolteacher. She’s also a single mom with strong credentials including a master’s in psychology, a B.A. in English, and a phlebotomy certificate. Ms. Mason is also self-taught in an exercise routine that involves a floor-to-ceiling pole often referred to as the “pole dance workout.” Thanks to a recent controversy, we now know Ms. Mason likes to workout on her pole wearing attire more appropriate for a South Florida beach than a sixth-grade classroom. And, like nearly everyone who engages social media, Ms. Mason also likes to upload photos and video of her life, including her pole dance workout routine.

So what’s the big deal? According to Ms. Mason’s employer, the West Hoke County Middle School, she is responsible for her public conduct even when she’s not performing her schoolteacher duties on the clock. The problem is, Mason proudly posted her selfie-styled pole dance workout on her Facebook account and someone allegedly leaked it to the school district wherein she was promptly suspended. Though the school district has yet to publicly divulge its reason for Mason’s suspension, it’s likely because of the video.

Though the pole in a pole dance workout is most commonly referred to as a “stripper pole,” the pole dance workout is clearly not about stripping in an adult entertainment context. In fairness, there is certainly some resemblance to exotic dancing in the context of a pole dance workout as a form of exercise. Was Mason stripping in her video? No, she wasn’t. But that may have to do with the fact she was already scantily clad in the video with not much left to strip away. And though her underwear was quite revealing, she wasn’t nude.

The school district and those who agree with its decision to suspend Mason will likely cite her choice of posting her video as irresponsible. Few will argue she wasn’t irresponsible at least with respect to her choice to reveal her posterior anatomy. 

However, online conversations on the topic reveal sympathy for Kandice citing hers was a benign expression of her joy for staying physically fit in a creative manner. “That’s how I stay in shape, that’s how I feel like I can express myself,” said Mason in a recent local WTVD television interview. “I don’t see it as negative.” In fact, she moonlights as a pole dance instructor to supplement her relatively low teacher income. In the mean time, she’s suspended with pay.

Q: Should the pole-dancing sixth-grade teacher’s posted Facebook video suffice as reason for employment suspension or termination?

Athletic not erotic

When (in)correctly viewed, everything is lewd

By Ben Tomkins

I don’t like a single thing about Kandice Mason being suspended for a video of her pole dancing in her home. At all. It reeks of false injury to artificially delicate sensibilities and a total and willing lack of understanding about what are reasonable and normal activities in society in 2018.

My wife is an aerialist, and I have a lot of aerialist friends. There is a significant crossover with the pole community, and I’ve had a chance to attend various shows and get to know quite a bit about it. Let me bust a few myths:

1. There is a big difference between pole dancing and stripping. Pole is an activity defined by an apparatus, the purpose of which is to demonstrate athleticism and expression. Stripping is a profession that may or may not involve a pole, the goal of which is to sexually arouse people with money so they will give it to you.

2. The pole community doesn’t even like the term “pole dancing” because of idiots who don’t get point #1. “Pole athlete” or “I do pole” are preferred. If you want to learn more about this, the next time you’re on a date with someone in the pole community, try this out:

You: So you do pole?
Pole Athlete: Yes.
You: Where do you strip?
Pole Athlete: At your mom’s house.
You: What?
Pole Athlete: Gotta go. You’re picking up the check, right?

It’s really that annoying. Pole is a legitimate movement art, separate from stripping, and the people who do it are very dedicated. There are international pole competitions, and there’s not a single garment of clothing removed. Oh, and on the point of clothes, it was brought up every chance members of the media got that she was wearing skimpy clothes. Our own forum center writer had the nerve to say the following:

“Few will argue she wasn’t irresponsible at least with respect to her choice to reveal her posterior anatomy.”

Actually, anyone who’s ever tried pole can tell you her choices were entirely responsible. YOU HAVE TO DRESS LIKE THAT BECAUSE WITHOUT SKIN CONTACT ON THE POLE YOU SLIDE DOWN AND BREAK YOUR NECK.

Even the TV news network that showed the video blurred her waist like she was naked, despite having more skin exposed every day just reporting on sports. That’s how bad the stigmatization problem is with pole. Nobody assumes a male diver is wearing a Speedo because they want everyone to look at their package. It’s obviously a practical garment, and moreover, if you complained about their junk every time it was on people would start to wonder what your strange fascination was really about. The same is true of pole. The assumption that someone doing pole is wearing skimpy clothes for sexual reasons has nothing to do with reality, and everything to do with the dirty, judgmental minds of other people.

The last sentence could easily serve as a prompt for an entire documentary about how messed up people are in our society, but in the interest of completing my case I will say a few words about the school’s employee conduct policy.

The policy that Ms. Mason is accused of violating states that “Employees will be held to the same professional standards in their public use of social media and other electronic communications as they are for any other public conduct.”

That’s a perfectly reasonable policy provided the phrase “professional standards” is understood by those administering it. Clearly, “professional standards” means “whatever interpretation of your behavior we choose to slather over the top of what’s actually going on”. I watched the video that got Kandice Mason suspended, and she’s demonstrating moves on a pole in her capacity as a pole instructor wearing activity-appropriate clothes. There’s no ambiguous interpretation for anyone who knows anything about pole athletics. However, if you’ve decided that getting a sexual vibe from someone means they are putting one out, I really…really don’t think I want you enforcing the professional conduct policy. Or working around kids. Or anyone.

I suspect the final argument from administration is going to be some variation of the old “you know it when you see it” definition of pornography, but for all anyone knows they may start with that. They’ve suspended her, but they haven’t actually had the courage to issue a statement to the public. My guess is they are experiencing uneasy consciences because that definition of what was going on in the video says a whole lot more about what’s in their minds than they’d care to admit.

She certainly can can-can (but should she?)

Giving a whole new meaning to Carolina moon

By Marcia Worthington

Fact: A teacher signed a contract, agreeing she is responsible for her public conduct even when not teaching school. Fact: teacher videoed self, ostensibly doing an exercise routine, pirouetting on a stripper pole. Fact: teacher had on, shall we say, a minimum of clothing in the video, which is fine in the privacy of her own pole dance studio except… Fact: teacher posted video on Facebook.

First, I think we all can agree that if this teacher isn’t fired for being lewd then she certainly deserves to be fired for being stupid.

Kandice Mason signed a contract to teach sixth grade in the West Hoke County (North Carolina) Middle School. Part of that contract stipulates she is responsible for her public conduct even when she is not performing (now there’s an ominous word in this debate) schoolteacher duties. Ms. Mason chose to video herself “performing” her exercise routine. This self-taught routine consists of twists, turns, inversions, and other gyrations on what is commonly known as a stripper pole. Besides her teaching job, Ms. Mason also works as a pole dance instructor. I’ve seen the video. It’s clear Ms. Mason is not “performing” a strip act. But the entire episode, including her appearance nearly sans culottes, shows some pretty strong resemblance to exotic dancing if not stripping. As one source put it, that may have to do with the fact she was already scantily clad in the video with not much left to strip anyway. Although her underwear was quite revealing, she wasn’t nude.

Well, small mercies! She wasn’t nude. Here we have an alleged adult of the media age who had the incredibly poor judgment to post a video on Facebook that was utterly tasteless at best and graphic at worst. An unknown person supposedly leaked the video to the school district at which point Ms. Mason was suspended. And not on the pole. From her job. Which brings us to this week’s debate. Should she have been suspended or is this an overreach by the school system to dictate behavioral standards to its employees?

It’s hard to argue the school system is overstepping its bounds when Ms. Mason voluntarily signed the contract. (Just by the way, much has been made of her qualifications. I’m not sure why this is being bandied about as though she has some extraordinary educational accomplishments. She has a master’s in psychology, a B.A. in English, and, for heaven’s sake, a certificate in phlebotomy. In the school district in which I live, all teachers must have—or procure within five years of hiring—a master’s degree. A bachelor’s and master’s are the norm, not something to be mentioned as singular or exceptional. And the phlebotomy thing? She’s the person who’s grunging around in my arm to find a vein for a blood sample? Not really germane unless in addition to an exercise instructor she also moonlights as a vampire. Strong credentials? Not so. Average. Merely average.)

The inclusion and acceptance of a “public conduct” phrase is really all the justification the school needs to discipline, suspend, or fire her. She is, as noted, currently suspended, albeit with pay. She is enjoying her fifteen minutes of fame while being funded by school monies. There are forums more public than Facebook, but ever since Aunt Bessie went to her reward and quit spreading gossip over her backyard fence, there certainly aren’t any that are quicker. Earlier I used the words “incredibly poor judgment” to describe Ms. Mason’s behavior but it really goes beyond mere poor judgment. Someone in such a transparent occupation as school teacher must know many if not most of their actions are going to be scrutinized by the public they serve. 47,000 people live in West Hoke County. By contrast the city of Dayton is home to 141,000. Having been a small-town girl my whole life, I can assure you the tinier the town, the faster the tongues wag. Her lack of awareness to the consequences of posting this video is astonishing and not in a good way.

In addition to other requirements, teachers are obligated to observe ethical standards set in codes of professional responsibility adopted by local school districts according to the Model Code of Ethics for Educators, which is recommended by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification. From the web site of the NEA itself comes this pearl: “The desire for the respect and confidence of one’s colleagues, of students, of parents, and of the members of the community provides the incentive to attain and maintain the highest possible degree of ethical conduct.” While dancing on a stripper pole is nowhere near the lowest degree of ethical conduct, it doesn’t remotely approach the highest.

There was, inevitably, an interview with a local television station. “It’s how I express myself,” Ms. Mason declared in defense of sharing her video. It might be interesting to hear what else she has to declare when one of her students says, “Ms. Mason, I saw your butt on YouTube.” It may be too late to save her teaching job, but in the future she might want to consider expressing herself by karaoke singing. While clothed.

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