Second grade teacher Marie Jarry called in sick one day to her job at the Southington, Ct. public schools, which perhaps was not strictly accurate, since the next day she and her husband won first prize in a “Hottest Wife, Ugliest Husband” contest on the Howard Stern show. Now she’s suing over being pressured to resign from her job; school authorities invoked a school “morality clause” and were really mean about the little sick day fib (The Smoking Gun, Jun. 27, with copy of complaint).Look, as I have said before, the wisdom of doing these type of things by teachers is debatable. But to invoke a morality clause and force a resignation is not a bright idea by the school district.
Jarry is not the first, nor will she be the last, person to take a sick day and do something else while not being actually sick. Let's assume for a moment that the school district fired her for taking a sick day without being sick. Should her punishment be losing her job? What if she had taken a vacation day and done this? What if she had taken a sick day and gone to the beach in this bikini?
What Jarry did was neither illegal or immoral but simply unwise. She did not take off her clothes, she probably wears the bikini to the pool, the lake or the beach. The bikini is neither too small or too vulgar, indeed, based on the pictures at the Smoking Gun, it is relatively modest as bikinis go. What what is the immorality that is being invoked here? Is it the fact that she appeared on the Howard Stern show, where Stern was no doubt into his usual on-air crass self?
This to me illustrates the danger of "morality clauses." It is one thing to invoke a morality clause as the reason for termination if their is a conviction for an illegal act. But Jarry cannot be charged or convicted of appearing on a radio or TV show that has bad taste. But the larger question is whether teachers should be held to such a "higher standard" that they give up some of their otherwise normal rights. Jarry has a right to wear this bikini. She has the right to appear on Howard Stern's show. So the question really is, what is the standard of morality that we are trying to uphold? More importantly, who gets to determine that standard?
In the end, Jarry will no doubt get a settlement since I don't think that there is much legal ground for the school district's actions.