Josephine Isernia, a New York State teacher with 22 years of experience under her belt, has been fired. Her offense? Allegedly having an explicit sexual conversation with two female students.
According to the town’s local paper, a school board report on the incident says,
“The two students came to Isernia's classroom after school when one needed clarification about an assignment. At one point, one of the students received a text message from her boyfriend and slammed her phone on a desk. Isernia began asking her what the problem was and the student reluctantly explained that her boyfriend was pressuring her to have sex or oral sex, the students said in the report. Isernia responded with some sexually explicit advice on the matter.”
One of the students went home and told her mother about the conversation. The distraught mother then contacted the school board, which investigated and eventually determined that what Isernia had said was so “vulgar, obscene and disgusting” that she needed to be fired–despite having no previous disciplinary problems, positive performance reviews, and over two decade’s worth of service.
So what was she accused of saying? Even the report isn’t totally clear, saying she uttered, “the following words, or words to the effect:”
“Is one of the problems that you are not spreading your legs [for your boyfriend]” and/or,
“Most boys want a head job”; and/or
“It isn’t so bad if you don’t swallow”; and/or
“Boys aren’t usually satisfied with a hand job”; and/or
“Is a boy asking to have sex—was it fellatio?”
On the other hand, it is also important to realize that these statements have been taken out of context. Were the girls asking specific questions or going to her with a problem they couldn’t discuss with their parents? That seems pretty likely. Isernia says she only used certain phrases after the girls themselves used them, a common practice in counseling to clarify what someone is saying and to make sure that everyone is on the same page. She disputes that the exchange went exactly as the girls described it.
Even if she did say exactly what the report suggests, it doesn’t seem as if this isolated conversation warrants her termination. Teachers walk a fine line everyday and it is a testament to a teacher’s strengths and connection to her students if they decide to confide in her. Making poor choices during one conversation should not mean the end of an educator’s career.
As a teacher, do you think Isernia's comments were enough to get her fired? How do you think your school would have handled the situation? Have you ever talked about sex with a teacher?