Opinions

Ex-teacher Stacie Halas becomes the topic for a hot debate

Her life was perfect: she had graduated from university; she landed her dream job teaching science at a middle school; she was smart, young, and had it all figured out. But 32-year-old Stacie Halas’ life changed when her past caught up with her—a past in the porn industry, which eventually got her fired from her teaching job and landed her in court to settle the issue. On the one hand, Halas didn’t hurt anybody or do anything illegal; she had just fallen on some tough financial times and the adult film industry was a way out. On the other hand, Halas was a teacher for middle schoolers and her job demanded respect from her students. Should Halas have been fired? Or does the poor woman deserve her teaching job back?

Point: Don’t teach

There are those who say Stacie Halas should be able to keep her job as a middle-school science teacher and leave her brief stint in the world of pornography in the past. This is a nice, idealistic sentiment, and I am normally a person in favour of letting someone start over after leading a life they are not particularly proud of—on a case-by-case basis, anyway. Unfortunately, because of the various elements at play, this specific scenario forces me to remind myself that I live in the real world—a world where the Internet exists and grade-school kids are assholes.

Let’s be real for a second here. Teaching (especially at the middle-school level) is tough work, not only because you have to come up with a stimulating lesson plan and assignments that are appropriately challenging for the students’ age level, but because you are in charge of keeping a bunch of generally immature, uncooperative, and irrational kids in line for hours at a time. All of this requires that each teacher commands a certain amount of respect and that they present themselves as an authority figure. I hate to break it to everyone, but Halas’ position as an authority figure in the classroom has been compromised. This is especially true in the age of the Internet, where virtually everyone has the ability to look into your past and drag out your dirty little secrets for public consumption.

Some might argue the videos of Halas online are from years ago and they do not dictate the quality of her teaching ability in the present day. While this is true—for all I know, she could be a fantastic teacher—it doesn’t excuse the fact that the middle-school classroom environment is often like a prison yard, where you can’t show any sign of weakness or else you’ll be eaten alive.

For example, remember those teachers you had in grade school whose last name sounded vaguely dirty, and how you, or someone else in your class, would endlessly terrorize them for it? Well, imagine there was a video of your teacher online doing some very naughty stuff and you had the ability to watch these videos in class on your smartphones in high definition. It wouldn’t matter if that teacher was the best educator in the world—not everyone in the room would be paying attention to their lesson on the basics of photosynthesis.

Now let me just say that I do not think pornography is immoral or wrong—being someone who partakes in this sort of material, that would make me an enormous hypocrite. I will also agree with the people who say Halas did nothing illegal, and this is simply an unfortunate case of someone taking a “sleazy” job to pay off her student loans and support her family.

However, most 11- to 13-year-olds don’t yet recognize these complexities, which is why they need a clean-cut authority figure to help shape and develop their young and impressionable minds. The unfortunate fact is that Halas is not this figure, especially when her magnum opus Boobaholics Anonymous 2 is streaming online for all to see.

—Kyle Darbyson

Counterpoint: P is for past, not porn star

Stacie Halas lost her teaching job and then she lost her court appeal. She was an eighth-grade biology teacher in California who once acted in porn. Students and teachers discovered her films and showed them to others at school—which, by the way, apparently was not a problem for the school board.

Halas worked in the adult entertainment industry in order to pay off her extensive student loans before the school board hired her. She worked under the name Tiffany Six.

Halas didn’t speak about her former job in class or during parent-teacher interviews. She wasn’t promoting her work as a porn star while employed as a teacher. She was good at her job. So why are we so concerned about her ability to be an effective teacher?

Jeff Chancer, superintendent of the Oxnard School District, said that her decision to “engage in pornography was incompatible with her responsibilities as a role model for students.”

Good teachers encourage their students to try, make mistakes, and learn from them. What better role model is there than someone who has made a professional mistake and moved on from it?

School systems are often criticized for placing too much emphasis on having the correct answer and too little on how to get that answer. Understanding the process is more important than making a lucky guess. Mistakes should be encouraged as part of a larger life process.

There’s no doubt that the reality of most professions is that being in a pornographic film will ruin your chances of future employment. Teaching is a profession with a code of ethics that holds teachers to a high standard of behaviour both inside and outside of the classroom. But just because this standard exists doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t change. If anything, by allowing Halas to make a mistake and learn from the experience—the same way teachers should allow their students to learn from their mistakes—she would be demonstrating a spirit of resilience, persistence, hard work, and reinvention.

These are the types of values parents should want teachers to have. These are standards that can help students succeed in life. If it’s a question of values, we need to rethink the values that schools are teaching our kids.

The Internet makes it hard to have secrets. It makes it hard to move on from indiscretions and questionable choices. With all of the freedom that technology offers, it records and restricts our movements as well. But evidence that we’ve moved on from an unsavoury past should be something to celebrate.

Being able to learn from your mistakes is a sign of maturity and growth—unless you want to be a teacher, in which case you’d better get it right the first time, or you’re out.

—Sabrina Nemis