California teacher fired for porn films loses appeal to keep job

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California middle school teacher fired for appearing in pornographic scenes under the alias “Tiffany” has lost an appeal to get back into the classroom after a panel found she acted immorally.

The Oxnard school board in April voted unanimously to fire Stacie Halas, 32, over allegations that she was unfit to continue in her job as a teacher at Richard B. Haydock Intermediate School because of her role as a porn actress.

Halas appealed the dismissal, and under state law has been entitled to receive full pay since she was placed on administrative leave in March 2012, said district spokesman Tom DeLapp.

On Friday, a three-person panel of the state Commission on Professional Competence upheld her termination, potentially clearing the way for the Oxnard school board to take her off paid administrative leave. A vote on that was expected later on Wednesday in Oxnard, 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The movies Halas starred in include “Boobaholics Anonymous 2,” “Unnatural Sex” and “Who’s That Girl,” the commission said. She admitted to appearing in about a dozen porn scenes, according to the commission.

Halas, who since early in her educational career was dogged by rumors of her porn career, maintained during her appeal that her work in the industry predated her employment as a full-time, paid teacher.

“Of course we’re very disappointed with the decision, and with all due respect to the commission I believe that they have confused Ms. Halas’ embarrassment and nervousness concerning her participation in the adult film industry years ago with what they believe is her credibility,” said Halas’ attorney, Richard Schwab. “She obviously is not a sophisticated woman. She is a very good, hardworking, dedicated teacher.”

In upholding her dismissal, the panel discounted Halas’ arguments that she appeared in porn scenes because she was left with a crushing debt of $100,000 after a split with her fiance.

The panel instead found she could have opted for bankruptcy or a modification of her student loans, and said she was a poor “role model” for students and had been dishonest with the school district during its investigation.

“Respondent’s pornographic scenes may demonstrate for viewers a lack of respect for herself and may send a message that she endorses the degradation of women and deviant sexual behavior,” the panel said in its decision.

Halas was in porn scenes shot between December 2005 and August 2006, and during that time also served as a student teacher at elementary campuses in two other school districts, the commission found.

Halas is not the first teacher fired over a porn career. In Florida, a teacher was fired in 2011 when it was revealed he was in gay porn films, but a school commission later reinstated him because he technically did not violate any rules.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Steve Orlofsky