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Controversial teacher to start program for at risk kids

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The former Bronx art teacher who education officials put on administrative duty after she revealed her prostitute past in a blog post has decided not to sue the city but rather to develop a creative writing program for teens at risk for sexual exploitation.

In announcing her decision Thursday, Melissa Petro, who had been a tenured teacher before she resigned from the city’s Department of Education last month, said she had decided to “move on.”

“Given my experience as a teacher and a writer, not to mention my personal history — which I overcame, in large part, through writing and performing my work — I am looking to be of service,” Petro said at a Manhattan news conference.

Petro’s past came to light after she wrote about her previous employment as a hooker and stripper for the Huffington Post. Education officials subsequently booted her from the classroom. She told amNewYork that she agreed to resign because she was threatened with the loss of her unemployment insurance benefits if she went through through an education department hearing at which she was certain to be fired.

Petro’s attorney, Gloria Allred, on Thursday called the city’s actions a “witch hunt” and said that had she decided to go to trial on First Amendment grounds, “she would have won.”

“People have a right to freedom of speech. But we expect our teachers to remember their obligations as public employees and role models to children,” education department spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz said in defense. “Ms. Petro failed to live up to those obligations, and she has no one to blame but herself.”

Petro, who is working on a memoir, continues to blog under her own name on The Daily Beast, but has said she must leave her Upper East Side apartment because she can no longer afford to live there.

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