Carol Ann Eastman is a high school teacher in North Canton, Ohio. Like many people I know, she also dreamed of writing a novel and being published. She took her publishing dreams into her own hands and self-published a novel using the pen name Deena Bright. Her book and her career have now come under scrutiny because she didn't write just any novel. Carol Ann Eastman wrote an erotic novel about a high school teacher and some are questioning whether or not that's appropriate.
Eastman was placed on administrative leave for three weeks while the school board investigated their options. In the end she was given a five day suspension without pay for violating the district's computer use policy for “social networking of a personal nature." It was not stated that this was in connection with her book. She may have been updating her personal Facebook page or using Twitter, we don't know. I know that I've totally done both, as well as read blog posts, on work computers in the past.
Eastman isn't the first high school teacher to face this. In 2011, Judy Buranich, who writes under the pen name Judy Mays, was also outed as a teacher by day and erotic novelist by night. It caused a media firestorm when a small but vocal group parents protested that the writing of erotic novels was an "unethical" occupation for someone who taught children all day. Buranich was lucky. She received lots of support from her community, including an impassioned YouTube response from one of her former students.
The week after Judy Buranich made national media, she wrote about the experience on Publishers Weekly.
"I’ve been teaching thirty-three years and am, frankly, too old to get upset because I hadn’t done anything illegal. I’ve been published for nine years, and never once did I bring my writing up in class. I never talked about it."
What I find interesting in both of these cases is that the teachers themselves were not the ones that brought their books to the attention of their students. Their novels were written outside of school hours. They both used pen names. They did not bring their novel to school. It was others in the community discovered their after school activities and outed them.
Rebecca Schoenkoph from Wonkette points out that many authors have also been teachers and not all of them have written content that was appropriate for a classroom. As Judy Buranich pointed out, writing erotica is not illegal and as copies of erotic novels such as Fifty Shades of Grey continue to fly off bookstore shelves, I feel comfortable saying it's erotica is popular at the moment.
But what you do think? Do we or should we hold teachers to a higher standard? If your child's teacher wrote erotica in her off-hours under a pen name and didn't mention it in school, would you have a problem with that?
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