Ex-Stripper-Turned-Teacher Petro Moves On

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Melissa Petro said Thursday that she is moving on with her life.

Petro, 30, had been on the job as an art teacher for three years in a Bronx elementary school, making more than $60,000 per year, when her writings about her past life as a stripper and prostitute emerged online last September.

“My writing existed long before I was teaching. I write for adults, I write on sites that speak to adults, I don’t think my students could comprehend my work – and if they did, they deserve an A,” Petro said.

Photo Gallery: Melissa Petro 

The tenured teacher had been suspended from P.S. 70 in Claremont three weeks after blogging for the Huffington Post. In the article, she criticized Craigslist for shutting down its adults services section, noting that she herself used the website from Oct. 2006 to Jan. 2007 to run ads exchanging sex for cash. Petro was hired by the Department of Education after passing a background check.

1010 WINS Reporter Juliet Papa spoke with Petro.

The last time we saw Melissa Petro, she stayed silent as she ran from the cameras. On Thursday, she traded in her gym shoes for four-inch heels and invited the coverage, reports CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

“I found prostitution physically demanding, emotionally taxing and spiritually bankrupting,” she said.

Petro held herself up as a victim, unfairly pushed from her job at P.S. 70.

“I understand that there’s a great amount of stigma leveled at women who have experiences like mine,” Petro said.

Petro made no effort to hide her past — speaking at a 2009 event in the Bowery and blogging about it repeatedly over the last five years.

“I was a stripper in Mexico, when I was 19,” she said a video.

Petro said she resigned rather than fight a termination hearing.

Attorney Gloria Allred has taken up Petro’s plight, calling it a witch hunt and arguing it’s a case of free speech.

“Knowing that there’s a risk is not the same as expecting necessarily that government will decide to remove you from the classroom,” Allred said. “We all hope and expect that our government will respect constitutional rights, we know that there is always a risk that they will not.”

“I am disappointed in the DOE’s mistreatment of me,” she said. “Rather than seeking my termination, the could have defended my right to free speech.”

“Everyone has a past, and people should be judged for what they do while they are employed, and not for their past sex life,” attorney Gloria Allred said.

Petro was suspended in September. Weeks later, the city moved to terminate her for conduct unbecoming a teacher.

“We’re just not going to have this woman in front of a class,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Appearing with famed attorney Gloria Allred, one might assume that Melissa Petro was planning a lawsuit – but she’s not. Under the terms of her resignation deal with the city, she can’t sue.

“I was disappointed to resign,” Petro said. “I loved my students, was very proud of the work I did.”

Petro said her teaching days are over, but she still hopes to work with kids. She’s planning a program to assist teenagers at risk of sexual exploitation.

Late Thursday, the Department of Education released a statement saying Petro failed in her obligation to provide a good role model for children, and has no one to blame but herself.

More from Tony Aiello
  • Orlinda Calmeid

    That is right Prostitution is illegal so men and women who hate any women or man who has never been a prostittue ought not to be called that because that is abuse and slander.

    However, she was one so that is not slander. A teacher ought never to be hired if she has had that kind of a lifestyle.

    Where were the cops or neighbors? They are just as guilty for her getting away with it.
    What need to be taught in public school is morality based on the ten commandments.

  • Always_Amused

    We have current Wall Street executives who have comitted MUCH WORSE CRIMES stealing Billions of dollars and lying about worthless investments, but they are REWARDED for their despicable acts! Here is a teacher who has turned her life around and wants to tell the truth and help others avoid her mistakes, but she is punished for her honesty by people who have questionable integrity themselves. I would be proud to have a teacher like Melissa Petro in our local school system teaching my children!

  • HR Director

    I am appalled at those defending this individual. Parents do not want a former prostitute teaching their children. I can guarantee that she was not forthcoming in her job application. Had she been, she never would have been hired. Yes, she has a right to earn a living and be forgiven for her past. But teachers are role models, and held to a higher standard. YES. I know that some do not live up to that expectation. And when that happens, they usually lose their jobs. At least that’s the case where I live and work.

  • Bill

    She could go make some REAL money working for Dennis Hoff out in NV, and I would be in line to be her first customer

  • Death to the NEA.

    Unbelievable! A corrupt organization that takes money by force of gun from non-consenting adults… has the audacity to come down on someone who used to earn her money from consenting adults who willingly paid her.

  • Justin

    Heh, and this from New York — the city of morality. How about officials worry about cleaning up their own streets before punishing people for their past, especially folks who have overcome that past to become helpful productive citizens.

  • Amelia

    This situation does seem very sad. Do the people who fired her think prostitutes WANT to be prostitutes? Disgraceful that they have pigeonholed this lady in to her past occupation, and now she will probably never be able to get a job that she loves again. Sad sad sad. I would have no problem with her teaching my kids as long as she is a caring and competent teacher.

  • chris

    this lady is garbage….

  • Ana

    As a teacher I had extensive back ground checks just as any other prospective teacher. If there are any criminal illegal activities in our background we are not hired. Why would it be any different for her? Being a teacher involves being a role model for children, we are scrutinized throughout our career. That’s part of the profession like it or not.

  • Cpollard

    That DOE! A bunch of self righteous Pharisees. What ever happened to “forgive us our sins, AS we forgive others”Guess they don’t have any thing to be forgiven…

  • Donnie Parnell

    I seem to recall another prositute who was brought before a young rabbi for condemnation. After listening to her accusers the young rabbi allowed the crowd of accusers to stone her, with one condition. His instruction was simple enough, ” let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. When no one could cast a stone he forgave her.
    Its a shame that more people don’t follow Jesus, and a greater shame that those who do forget that love and forgiveness were the conorstones of his teaching.
    This is one time we dont have to guess at What Would Jesus Do, we have a written account of it. Ask your self this, could you cast that first stone? Could anyone?

  • Larry

    Something tells me the biggest push for her resignation came from Christians who teach forgiveness and repentance, but can’t see beyond other people’s pasts themselves. This is just wrong.

  • Shawn Robles

    Just goes to show you that your employer can terminate you for mattes related to your personal life. Its not right.

    • SusieQ

      It’s a shame she resigned and cannot sue.

    • Sniffy

      I think its fine ehwt they did. II dont think it would be very appropriate for an ex-prostitute to teach anybody. Elementery kids? No way! But her teaching teens about sex exploitation would be helpful.

      • Kay

        No, it is right, depending on the job. If she was a secretary, who’d care? But anyone who is in a sensitive, confidential job, or anyone who has contact with young children, has to accept the conditions of employment. As she exploited herself without regret as stripper and prostitute, I don’t think she can help teenagers.

      • Larry

        It’s a shame people are so unwilling to believe someone can change and overcome their problems to become a good person. People like you and Kay only make it harder for people to change than it already is. We should celebrate people who overcome stuff like this, not shun them.

        Kay, it’s too bad you’re not aware of the hundreds or thousands of people who have turned their lives around and are now helping kids and teenagers every day. Drug dealers, gang members, prostitutes, even members of the Mafia. A lot of kids are more willing to listen to people who have lived these lives than parents they think don’t know or understand anything. You have no idea.

  • Mr. Armenia

    Ms. Petro should have sued.

    Her civil rights were violated. there have been other people that commited more serious vilent crimes such as mrder and robbery that make $60,000 a year

    • IrisInMissouri

      Ironic that politicians should be denouncing anyone as a bad role model”, given that they are selling themselves to teh highest bidder!
      Seriously though, Ms Petro certainly ahs doen a good job of redeeming herself.Whatever happened to 2nd chances,to overcoming klife’s obstacles, to learning from mistakes? Children/teens today see/hear & have more knowledge of subjects that their parents& grandparents did as adults, thanks to TV,Movies,marketing. This woman should not only be allowed to resume her teaching career but should be praised for changing her path in life and becoming more than she was at 19. Former prostitutes, former felons,former fools and yes, even former politicians, should be encouraged to learn from their past and change their future. They benefit, society, benefits. And, by the way, just which of you would choose to be defined forever by what you were at 19?

  • Elizabeth

    This is unfair. She should not be fired for what she did before becoming a teacher, and she should not be fired for writing about her past – especially since she obviously isn’t advocating prostitution or stripping as a fulfilling career. If she talking about it in the classroom, that would be different.

  • bosshog

    So what was the basis for the firing? Moral turpitude?

  • GeezLouise

    And how many DOE employees have hired prostitutes? Are they all going to be fired if they’re ‘found out’ ?

  • Jim

    something is very wrong with a society that demands we have to lie to be excepted. Why is this country so obsessed with sex. Is this the results of too many laws?

    • Kay

      Could you please spell correctly? ACCEPTED!

      • Justin

        Kay, could you please stay on topic? Everyone knew what Jim meant. And, if you’d like to focus on proper spelling, grammar, and usage. Please stop typing in all caps. Thanks.

  • An old man who believes in second chances

    Ms. Petro has more courage and compassion, than the school dept, which I’m afraid has just botched a major opportunity to demonstrate that In America, People Get A Second Chance.

    She’s a great role model for holding your head high, and turning your life around, and kids need that.

    They shouldn’t have fired her, they should have asked the parents of her students if the majority of parents were OK with her teaching art for the rest of the school year (which probably would be yes).

    Then they should have gotten her to team up with some of the social workers who work with the girls on the street,, to help bring them in off the street, and back to school.

    If the school department had stood behind her, she would have had the credibility to talk with the girls, and persuade them that they DO have another option than street walking.

    Instead the school dept. has demonstrated puritanical self-righteousness (or else a wimpy fear of those who are self-righteous). It’s a sad statement about their leadership.

    • moneylady

      I agree. Who better to reach these girls than someone who has been there, done that, and got out and improved her life?

  • Carol Ann

    The woman changed her life for the better and now she is punished for her past. Most people have something they are not proud of. They key is to learn from our mistakes and move on and not keep them down. Judgmental hypocrites.

    In stead of the land of the free it should be called the land of the perfect.

  • Superintendent

    She has a lot she can teach students. Too bad that won’t happen in this district.

  • superintendent

    with all the cuts being made, thats coming real soon

    • Diane Vitanza

      I would have problem with her. If she says it is her past then it should stay that way . If she wants to help others outside the school that is another story.

  • kk

    she was a stripper BEFORE becoming a teacher.
    what’s the problem?

    was she asking the children to strip?

    was there a pole in the room?
    Granted, it’s not something to mention-or brag about as the case may be- but she was no longer a stripper.

  • michaelhohoho

    hey, if she really wanted to change her life she would have done it 100% not 50/50, I mean a teacher is a role model also, I would be on her side if she had really wanted to change, but sadlt that was´nt to be, I know we teachers do not make good money but s I said we are role models for our students to follow, good luck with your future, nothing against what you used to do for a living, and thats all I have to say about that…

    • JOHN


    • JonPeter

      I believe she did acknowledge her past and change. If she was in denial or lying about her past then she might be 50/50 with change as you put it. She is a better role model with her honesty, than had she resorted to lying. I trhink yiou have your priorities backwards.

  • melody

    I agree that the DOE handled this poorly. It is sad the way sex workers are viewed by our society.

    The best of luck to Ms. Petro with her new career path – may it bring her happiness and wealth :) :) :)

  • Newsworthy?! Explain.

    “I was very surprised and disappointed in the way the DOE handled the situation,” Petro said.

    Sure. Sure you were.

  • joe k

    Honesty is not always the best policy

blog comments powered by Disqus
Giving Tuesday
Charles Osgood Event

Listen Live