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Porn Stars Can Be Effective Teachers

Kevin Hogan is the head of the English department and the crew coach at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Massachusetts. He’s on paid leave after he was ambushed by Mike Beaudet of Fox 25 News in Boston with photographs from his performances in pornographic films that were released last year.  

Hogan appears to be well-respected by his students and their parents. It’s understandable that parents would be surprised to learn about Hogan’s past, but once the initial shock wears off, will they care that a teacher has participated in porn? As long as he doesn’t discuss his past in porn in the classroom, I don’t think his previous work should be an issue.

Image by coolhunting "tapas" via Flickr

Being an adult film actor is not illegal as long as it is produced legally and it appears that Hogan participated in these films before accepting the position at Mystic Valley. If Hogan acted in a film after becoming a Mystic Valley teacher and his teaching contract forbid him from working in adult entertainment, then there would be a case for firing him for violating his contract. If all his contract has is a clause that prohibits “immoral behavior” during employment, that shouldn’t be enough to fire him. A blanket clause like that allows too much room for interpretation.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is investigating this situation. Its spokesman said, “We expect teachers to hold a very high moral standard. They are role models for students.”

Let’s break this down. Can you have high moral standards and have sex? Have gay sex? Have sex while being filmed? Have sex while being filmed and get paid for it? Have sex while being filmed, get paid for it, and allow it to be available for public consumption? The adult entertainment industry is stigmatized, but participating in it does not mean that you are an immoral person.

The next argument is always that teachers are role models for students. Being a former or current porn star does not threaten the health or safety of any student. It might give the teacher a reputation that they have to manage, but it doesn’t interfere with their ability to teach.

Moreover, teachers do lots of things that I’m sure parents don’t want their children emulating. Should we fire any teacher that has engaged in any act that parents dislike? If parents and schools are so concerned about having teachers who are exceptional role models for students, then they would fire every teacher who smokes, is bad at managing their finances, is obese, is a weekend binge drinker, and every teacher who has ever gotten a speeding ticket or driven while talking on their cell phone.

One of my totally awesome liberal friends is studying to be a teacher. She said, “Doing gay porn while teaching is unacceptable . . . . Pornography and teaching do not mix, no exceptions.” While I respect that some people think that there’s no place for a porn star in the classroom, I disagree. I’m not a parent, but if I were, I’d let my child be taught by a good teacher who happened to do porn as long as they kept their porn life out of the classroom.

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Lawyers’ Bad Reputations Start with Arrogant Law Students

In every industry, there appear to be some people who cling to the old school ways and others who fully embrace innovation. Apparently in publishing, there is animosity between writers whose work is published by the Big Publishing Houses and writers who self-publish.  Allegedly some people who are represented by Big Publishing claim that people who are self-published do not qualify as authors because they didn’t go through the same process to publish their work. In the big picture, it doesn’t matter. All writers have the desire to communicate their work and have to work hard to cultivate a following — let alone put the words on the page.

Gavel | Andrew F. Scott: P6033675

Image by afsart via Flickr

In the Arizona legal community, one source of animosity is the law school from which one matriculated. Until recently, Arizona had only two law schools: Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Arizona (UofA). There is an ongoing rivalry between these school based on who is ranked higher. In 2004, a new law school entered the scene: Phoenix School of Law (PSL). This school is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA); however it is not ranked in the top 100 law schools by the U.S. News. PSL has the reputation of being the school that people go to when they couldn’t get into ASU or UofA and that students hope to perform well enough during their 1L year so they can transfer to a better school.

I was not prepared for the hostility that some people have towards PSL graduates. Earlier this summer, an article was released that stated that 1/3 of 2010 law school graduates have jobs that do not require passing a bar exam. The responses from two of my classmates were appalling.

  • “This is why I hate…… PSL kids….. yes I’m going public with this comment and I don’t G.A.F.  If you want to be a lawyer, go to a real school and stop saturating the saturated market.  Was that too harsh? Whatever, I know everyone is thinking it.”
  • “I agree.  And the ABA could have a huge role to play by making law school accreditation more difficult. The problem is that there is a consent decree with the FTC which means that the ABA can’t refuse accreditation to more law schools or cut off accreditation to make fewer lawyers because it would be “anti-competitive.”  The problem now, of course, is that there’s too much competition and too many bottom-feeding, hungry lawyers.”

These comments were made by two people who had not yet taken the bar when they made these statements. My response: Who are they to judge? We all took the LSAT, got into a law school, passed our classes, and graduated. Everyone who passes a bar exam has the right to be a lawyer if they chose to be (and can find work), regardless of the road they took to get there.

These comments show the immaturity, insecurity, and enormity of their egos. During my 1L orientation, the then-dean of the law school encouraged us not to tell lawyer jokes because it perpetuated the image of the legal profession as being full of soulless, greedy, and unscrupulous ladder climbers. Unfortunately, this reputation is still earned by many lawyers now coming out of the gate.

My friend, Eric Mayer, is a brilliant criminal defense lawyer who says, “Good lawyers are not made by their law schools.” Law school is just the beginning of a legal career. A lawyer’s reputation should not be based on where they went to law school, but rather on their intelligence, competence, and ethics. I surprised an ASU law professor this week when I told her that I did not care about the future reputation of my law school because the body of my work will be more determinative of whether I’m a good lawyer.

If the legal profession wants to change its reputation, it should try to screen out these arrogant people when they apply to law school and continuously foster the idea that there’s a place for all types of people to be lawyers. More realistically, I suppose, schools should integrate elitist conversations into their classrooms and truly take the time to debate students who repeatedly demonstrate this type of arrogance. I hope comments like those enumerated by my classmates are not the norm for my class, my school, or the legal profession, but I have my doubts.

Having a different educational background does not make a person a bad lawyer. It just makes them different, and it’s this diversification that permits the profession to grow and remain relevant. Just as self-published writers may be looked down upon as being less credible, it is those who take a different path that are now spearheading certain areas of the industry. If you have a hang up about a person’s legal education, hire someone else.

Top 3 Money Savers for Law Students

Law school is atrociously expensive. Not only is tuition expensive, you still have to pay for your rent, utilities, books, supplies, and your living expenses. Besides only buying things when they are on sale, having roommates, and keeping your apartment a few degrees colder in the winter, I want to share my top 3 tip money saving tips.

Spare Change

Image by kayaker1204 via Flickr1. Used Books

1. Used Books
When I started law school, I thought it was important to have pristine books so I wouldn’t be distracted by a previous owner’s marks. With new books, I could highlight them using my own 6-color system and fill the margins with my own notes. I also thought I’d keep these books forever because they were a resource for my new career.

After one semester of believing that, I switched to used books. They were so much cheaper, and other people’s highlights and notes weren’t distracting at all.  If anything, they enhanced my reading experience.  I sought out books that had more highlighting and dings because they were cheaper.

One time, I was looking at the listings on Amazon for a particular used text book. One was $40 cheaper than all the others because the owner accidentally spilled coffee on the book. I bought it. The coffee was only on the first page and the edge of the subsequent pages.  It didn’t even touch any of the text. Thanks clumsy guy!

At the end of every semester I turned around and resold as many books as I could on Amazon, including my study guides. The only downside to this system is a lot of books have new editions every year so you have a small window in which to sell your used ones.

(cc) Bede Jackson from Flickr

2. Free Lunch
My law school had lots of lunch time events and networking functions. Usually my first question wasn’t, “What’s the topic?,” but “What’s for lunch?” It was a win-win situation. The club got a big turnout for their speaker, and I got a free lunch. Even better, sometimes clubs would order too much food and at the end, they were giving the leftovers away to anyone, including non-attendees.

Another way to get free lunch is to network. Most attorneys understand that law students are poor and will pick up the check. For many of them, it’s a business write-off. However, you should always offer and be willing to pay, and you should only ask an attorney to lunch if you’re genuinely interested in getting to know them. The free lunch is a bonus, not the goal.

3. Free/Cheap Parking
I think parking on campus is one of the biggest rip offs of education.  My school has a big parking structure that is a 5-minute walk away from the law school. Parking there costs $720/year. Do you know how much ramen I can buy for $720?! There’s a campus parking lot that’s only 5-10 minutes further away.  A permit for the lot costs $210/year. This is where I parked my first year.

When I was in school, students could get a light rail pass for the whole year for $80. For my last two years of law school, I opted for this. I parked for free at the park and ride, rode 5-15 minutes into campus, and walked for 5 minutes from the station to the law school. If I needed my car on campus, I paid the $8/day for visitor parking. At the end of the year, it was cheaper than buying a parking pass.

The super frugal student can park on the street for free.  The only issue is they have to get there early in the morning when space is still available or possibly the afternoon after the morning students have left. Sometimes you have to be willing to drive around looking for a space.

These are just my top 3 money saving tips. There are plenty of other ways to save money while going to school. If you want to share your tips, please leave them as comments. I’d love to hear them.

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When Bullied Students Should Turn to the Police

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  This blog should not be viewed as legal advice.  It is simply my experiences, opinions, and information I looked up on the internet.

This is the time of year when kids are heading back to school with new clothes and new notebooks. Unfortunately for some kids, they are going back with an all too familiar feeling of dread – the dread that accompanies going to a school where they are victimized on a daily basis with teasing, being hit and pushed, and being humiliated in front of their classmates and teachers.

I had the pleasure of meeting Caleb Laieski last week, the teen who dropped out of school on his 16th birthday because of the bullying he was enduring. He has since earned his GED and is now a lobbyist in Washington D.C. against bullying and discrimination in schools. We agreed that if a student is being physically assaulted in school and the administration is turning a blind eye to their plight, that the student should report it to the police.

(cc) apdk from Flickr

When I think of bullying in schools, I think about kids being shoved into lockers, being tripped in the hallway, and getting swirlies in the bathroom. In high school, these bullies face detention if they’re caught; but in the real world we call this “assault.” In the real world, people go to jail for this.

We want schools to be safe and we entrust teachers and administrators with protecting students.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.  Sometimes they make excuses for problem students.  Sometimes they ignore the problem, despite receiving reports of bullying and pleas from victimized students and their families. At that point, students can’t rely on the schools for protection, and they should report all incidents involving physical violence to the police.

Why should students go to the police instead of suing the school for not fulfilling their obligation to protect its students? The obvious reason is that it won’t stop the bully in his/her tracks; being arrested will. Suing the school takes a lot of time, energy, and money.  Additionally, the victims of bullying that I’ve met weren’t interested in making money; they just wanted the harassment to stop.  Reporting the violence to police is a faster, more efficient solution.

I recently spoke with a parent who reported a bully to the police. Multiple families had complained about the bully, and the school always made excuses for him. One parent decided that he’d had enough and reported the bully to the police when his child was physically assaulted after sticking up for another student who was being victimized. The benefit to the bully, besides getting a clear message that his behavior was unacceptable, was that he was required to attend the counseling and anger management classes that he needed.

When I was in high school, it seemed like students’ options for recourse ended at the principal’s office.  It makes me wonder if today’s victimized students know that they have options besides dropping out if their school won’t protect them.  The school won’t tell them – a school that won’t protect its students probably doesn’t want them to seek outside help either.  It’s up to the advocates to provide the necessary information and support to these students.

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Professor Shouldn’t Be Penalized For Confronting Cheating

This week I was inspired by a blog by Panos Ipeirotis, a professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University.  During the first course he taught after getting tenure, he required all of his students to turn in their papers through a program that analyzed each one for plagiarism.  He did the kind thing and alerted his students to fact that he was using this program.  Despite this warning, 22 of his 108 students plagiarized a significant portion of their first assignment.  He ended up spending dozens of hours dealing with his cheating students, many of whom denied plagiarizing their work and even continued to plagiarize other assignments in the future.  It made the classroom dynamic tense.  His department applauded his efforts to curtail cheating but they decreased his bonus based on his lowered evaluation from his students.  He vowed never to police his students for cheating again.

copy copy copy copy copy copy copy copy copy c...

Image by bettyx1138 via Flickr

No matter what honor code or cheating detection system a school has in place, there will always be people who successfully cheat the system.   These people disgust me, especially when they get accolades or opportunities that they didn’t earn.  Those who do their own work know that they’ve earned what they get and they value it more.

There seems to be two types of cheaters:

  • People who are lazy and don’t want to do the work if they can download it off the internet or get someone’s paper who did the assignment last semester and
  • People who are scared about not being the best who will do whatever it takes to maintain their grade point average.

This professor should be applauded for what he did.  His students knew going into the semester that they would be busted if they copied something on the internet or a paper that had been turned in through the anti-plagiarism program previously.   I also respect his decision to stop policing his students because of the excessive drama it added to his life and the negative effect on his livelihood.

This problem has forced me to ponder what the right answer to this problem is.  In the real world, people copy from the internet all the time, and it is generally an encouraged practice in efficiency.  However, in the world of research, it’s imperative to cite information sources.  Your work has no credibility without sources.  For example, my classmate, Stephanie Green, wrote a brilliant law journal note on gender identity and the need to have Medicaid pay for sex reassignment surgery.  Her paper was 51 pages long with well over 300 endnotes.  It’s a controversial topic and many will disagree with her conclusion, but there’s no doubt that her arguments hold water.

I think if I were a professor, I’d require my students to give a believable citation for every statement of fact, and I would deduct a point from their final score every time a citation was missing.  I might run their papers through an anti-plagiarism program to make sure they didn’t copy their paper completely from another student.  There is a time and place for directly copying another’s work, but there’s a right and a wrong way to do it.  Students may not like it, but I’m not going to feel bad for students who are sad because they can’t cheat anymore.

Oddly, Panos Ipeirotis’ original blog post has been removed.  It makes me wonder if he took it down because of backlash he was getting from the university.  It doesn’t make sense that someone would put so much thought into writing a blog post to pull it down so quickly.  It put a spotlight on an ongoing problem in higher education that will not be resolved by ignoring it.

UPDATE:  The original blog post may have been removed, but it is available elsewhere on the internet.  It’s worth reading.

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SALK Day 22 – The Foster Group

Today’s sponsor is The Foster Group, a new and unique law firm with offices in Arizona and Indiana.  Founded by Troy and Kristen Foster, The Foster Group is staffed with exceptional lawyers with big firm experience who want to provide the individualized service and care of a boutique law firm.  These lawyers are former partners at large national law firms, have worked for federal and state judges, and have represented large international companies.

Troy Foster’s career has focused on education and employment law.  He has been named one of The Best Lawyers in America for many years.  Troy has also received the highest ratings for ethical standards and substantive ability by his peers.  Kristen Foster specializes in labor and employment law, trust and estates, education and special education law, family law, and media relations.  One of her previous positions was an Assistant Attorney General for Arizona, where she represented Child Protective Services. Along with being on the Boards of Directors for numerous organizations, the Fosters recently founded Henry’s Hope, an organization that is dedicated to the needs of children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

The core principles of The Foster Group are commitment, hard work, trust, and dedication.  Their goal is to understand their clients’ needs and to provide them efficient and practical solutions to their problems.  The Foster Group is focused on providing high-quality, cost-effective services and being attentive and responsive to their clients.

The Foster Group specializes in labor law, education law, family law, trusts and estates, civil rights, and transactional corporate and real estate law.  It has a Human Resources Solutions Group that provides trainings, internal investigations, policy revisions, or high-level consultation work to companies.  Recently, The Foster Group has offered trainings in Arizona regarding the recent legalization of medicinal marijuana and its effect on the workplace.  It is also dedicated to protecting the rights and interests of individual who want to have their story heard in the news media, in print, or published in a book.

Troy Foster also offers his services as a mediator. He has experience mediating employment, civil, tort, legal and medical malpractice disputes.  His thoughtful nature and compassionate heart make me an ideal person to help parties resolve their problems.

The Foster Group is a unique and desirable place to work.  Unlike other firms that work their lawyers to death, The Foster Group only requires lawyers to bill 1600 hours per year.  Other firms require their lawyers to bill 1850-2200 per year, which is one of the reasons why lawyers are rumored to be addicted to stimulants and have heart attacks when they are 40.  The Foster Group also has a fun, event-driven bonus system, such as trips to Hawaii.  Additionally, the firm plans to launch a Community Involvement Program where it will hire an attorney to work full-time on pro bono cases.

The Foster Group can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is The Foster Group.   For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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