The Protestant origins of American public schools, rigid gender roles, and obsolete legal doctrines combined to create a pubic identity for the female teacher as a chaste role model. This ideal of the teacher as an asexual, moral figure persists, and teachers continue to be discharged for private, legal behavior because it offends community morality. Drawing on work from religious, legal and educational historians, this article explores how Protestant values, coverture, male-only suffrage, and the spousal rape exemption led to the development of a stringent moral code for America’s earliest female teachers.
This article explores how teachers gained some due process rights starting in the late 1960s, but highlights how due process requirements afford little protection when the notoriety of the conduct may be considered in the termination decisions. Requiring conformity to community-defined morals leads to a homogenous teaching force and subverts the legitimate pedagogical goals of teaching tolerance and accepting differences. The article also explores how Post-industrial urbanization provided some protection for teachers’ privacy, but in recent years, the Internet has facilitated incursions into teachers’ private lives. Teachers are particularly vulnerable to these electronic incursions because historically, American society has felt entitled to publicly examine teachers’ private lives.