crimesider

Melissa Petro (PICTURES): Craigslist Prostitute-Turned-NYC Teacher Resigns

Melissa Petro, a New York City elementary school teacher, has been reassigned after her school discovered she was a former prostitute. According to the New York Post, the tattooed sex worker taught art at Bronx elementary school PS 70 for three years and managed to keep her past life a secret from parents and faculty.
Personal Photo
Melissa Petro (PICTURES): Craigslist Prostitute Turned NYC Elementary Teacher Resigns
Melissa Petro (Personal Photo)

(CBS/WCBS) Melissa Petro told CBS station WCBS on Thursday that she is moving on with her life.

PICTURES: Melissa Petro, Teacher Sex Worker

The 30-year-old 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.

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.

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 spoke with CBS affiliate WCBS.

"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 New York 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.

High-powered 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 told WCBS. "We all hope and expect that our government will respect constitutional rights, we know that there is always a risk that they will not."

Appearing with 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.