Thirty-five-year-old Florida elementary school teacher Natalie Santagata was recently fired after someone surreptitiously sent her employer photos and videos depicting her "engaged in sex acts"... with consenting adults! She also might have smoked some weed in the videos! But we're not ruling out hand-rolled cigarettes, so let's just focus on the sex part!
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune tells us that in June 2011, the office of the Charlotte County School district—where Santagata had worked for the previous nine years, most recently as a fifth-grade teacher—received four photos and five videos featuring her performing various sex acts, including "graphic" ones. The videos were created in private places with no students or other minors present. After watching the videos (just once!), district officials noted in a report that Santagata "knew she was being filmed." Supposedly this means that she can't sue the person who distributed the vids. It also suggests that she should have predicted someone would eventually mail them to her employers and random parents, and also post them on YouTube, so it's her fault if the videos ended up in those places. This line of thinking is not victim-blaming, but assigning responsibility.
In recommending Santagata's firing, Charlotte County Superintendent Doug Whittaker told ABC 7 that it was "a judgment call as to what goes on in a person's private life, as to have impact on their credibility and effectiveness in the classroom." One school official posited that the videos and pics could haunt Santagata for the rest of her (or the mailer)'s life, which could lead to some awkward classroom conversations and situations. Still not Santagata's fault, but a reasonable concern.
What isn't reasonable, however, is how school officials and the general public have criticized Santagata for her perceived moral shortcomings without condeming those of the person who sent her sex videos all over the county—which they ostensibly did to humiliate her and endanger her job. Wittaker told the Herald-Tribune that Santagata's "personal conduct (or misconduct) ... clearly rises to the statutory standard of moral turpitude" and "demonstrably impacted your effectiveness as a classroom teacher in our district." Santagata has identified the person who mailed the vids, yet no one seems to be concerned about their moral character or conduct. And unlike Santagata's smoking and sexing, that person's behavior has severely harmed another person.
Though some parents have come to Santagata's defense, others agree with the school district. As one local told NBC 2, "The scrutiny again is, who do we allow to teach our children?" Certainly not adults who have sex with other consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes! Florida—and America—can do better than that.
But seriously: No one says Santagata ever came to work high, presented her home movies in the classroom, or discussed drug use or sex in any inappropriate way. She tested negative in her last drug screening. Though reviews on her teaching are mixed—some parents praise her teaching abilities, while others harshly criticize them via anonymous blog comments—the same can be said about almost every teacher. And surely there are other teachers in Charlotte County with drug habits and sex tapes. But maybe we don't hear about their "moral turpitude" because they, unlike Santagata, have more fully digested the lesson learned by so many of America's celebrities: that there are some things you really shouldn't tape.