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Prostitute-Turned-Teacher Removed From NYC Classroom

Sep 28, 2010 – 10:27 AM
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Lisa Flam

Lisa Flam Contributor

(Sept. 28) -- A New York City elementary school art teacher has been taken out of the classroom while school officials look into her online writings about her former work as a stripper and prostitute.

Melissa Petro, 30, was reassigned from her school in the Bronx to administrative duties Monday pending an independent investigation, the New York City Department of Education said today. She started with the district in August 2007 and earns $61,333 a year.

Meet Melissa Petro - the teacher who gives a new twist to 'sex ed.' Calling herself a 'former sex worker,' Petro has been teaching art in a Bronx, NY elementary school for three years, according to The New York Post. The well-liked teacher has been shockingly up front about her past - posting online accounts of her sexcapades in Mexico and London. But in her boldest move, the 30-year-old posted an essay this month claiming she also had been a prostitute.
Tomas E. Gaston, Splash News
Melissa Petro, a well-liked elementary school art teacher in the Bronx, has been moved out of the classroom and into administrative duties after she wrote online posts describing past experiences as a sex worker.
In a Sept. 7 essay, using her real name and a photo, Petro wrote candidly about her past life.

"From October 2006 to January 2007 I accepted money in exchange for sexual services I provided to men I met online in what was then called the 'erotic services' section of Craigslist.org," she wrote on The Huffington Post.

"At Craigslist.org, I was able to bill myself as exactly what I was at the time: a graduate student, bored and curious, sexually uninhibited, looking to make a little money while having a little fun," she wrote.


Petro has a master's of fine arts degree in creative nonfiction from The New School, according to the New York Post. Online, she's identified as a "former sex worker, researcher, writer, educator, and feminist."

She spoke of her experiences at open-mic events in New York City, the New York Daily News reports.

"My memoir that I'm working on now is about my experiences in the sex industry starting when I was 19 years old and living as a student abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico," Petro said recently at one videotaped event, according to the Daily News. "I started as a stripper and worked on and off for years, and I did other activities in that industry."

The work abroad solved most of her problems, she wrote in a June article in the online magazine, The Rumpus. She was no longer homesick or lonely and, coming from a broken, working-class home, she gained the ability to make lots of money. She began writing about her own experiences working in the field in her mid-20s, she wrote.

Some parents said they didn't want their children around Petro, who declined to comment to New York newspapers.

"I don't want nobody that used to do that to be around my kid," Grace Ventura, who has a third-grade son, told the Post. "People like that should not be allowed to be anywhere near children."

Yocelyn Quezada was also unhappy that Petro was teaching two of her three children.

"She's not a good role model. I do not want my daughters to find out about this," Quezada told the newspaper, "and I do not want my daughters to be around that kind of person."

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One unidentified parent interviewed on Fox New York-TV said Petro shouldn't lose her job if the past stays in the past and doesn't show up in the classroom.

Petro wrote of society's negative views of prostitutes.

"To many, I am dangerous. There is something wrong with me to have been capable of doing -- freely and upon my own volition -- something that any intelligent, decent woman would apparently never even consider doing," she wrote in The Rumpus. "Something that, for some, disqualifies me, still today, from working with children."

Petro wrote that she decided against using a pseudonym in her writing "for the sake of the rights and integrity of myself and every other man or woman who makes or has made choices similar to mine, and then tries to make sense of these choices."
Filed under: Nation
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