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Can Frontier High teacher who allegedly appeared in porn videos keep her job? Attorneys weigh in

Based on the allegations, it appears the Frontier High School teacher believed to have appeared in pornographic online videos did nothing illegal.

That may not matter when it comes to whether she keeps her job.

The case of Emily Salazar — the science teacher alleged to appear in the videos — represents something of a gray area, said attorney Matthew C. Clark of Chain Cohn Stiles.

The Kern High School District placed Salazar, 36, on paid leave Monday but has declined further comment, citing restrictions on personnel issues. Several anonymous sources have identified the woman in the videos as Salazar.

She has not responded to requests by The Californian seeking comment.

Clark said the allegations make no mention of sex acts involving students or occurring on school grounds. It wouldn't surprise him if the district fires Salazar, but he said she could decide to fight it with a wrongful termination lawsuit.

"You're on a really slippery slope here because obviously these are sensational circumstances, but where do you draw the line?" Clark said.

The case raises questions as to whether teachers can engage, without repercussions, in activities that some may find unseemly but are perfectly legal. For instance, what if a teacher supplements her income with exotic dancing, or works at a bikini coffee shop? Are those grounds for dismissal?

District officials have some leeway regarding such issues.

One part of the California education code states, "Each city or city and county board of examination may for immoral and unprofessional conduct, profanity, intemperance, or evident unfitness for teaching, recommend to the city or city and county board of education, the revocation of any certificate previously granted by the board of education in the city or city and county."

Daniel Rodriguez, founder and president of Rodriguez and Associates, said "immoral conduct and evident unfitness for service" are parts of the code that would appear to apply to the allegations in Salazar's case. 

In his research on cases where teachers faced allegations of a sexual nature but no crime was committed, Rodriguez found split results on whether the teachers kept their job. 

"It's too hard to tell," he said of the possible outcome in Salazar's case. 

Rodriguez said it's also possible for teachers to be fired from a school district but keep their teaching credentials.

Sometimes an investigation will find the teacher's actions have caused so much notoriety they're too much of a disruption to the class. Other decisions have found the disruptive aspect alone is not enough to revoke credentials. 

Teachers in California are subject to a set of guidelines called "Morrison factors" developed by the California Supreme Court to determine whether a person is fit to teach. They include the effect of the notoriety, impairment of teacher-student relationships, disruption of the education process and how recently the conduct occurred.

"You analyze the totality of the circumstances," Clark said.

The typical cases Clark handles regarding schools involve incidents where a teacher or other school employee became involved in a sexual relationship with a student. That's clearly illegal, he said, as opposed to what Salazar is alleged to have done.

Still, he said, it shouldn't come as a surprise to a teacher in such a situation for the case to have received intense media scrutiny.

"As a teacher you're kind of a public figure, you're considered a role model," Clark said, "and if you put this type of material in a public forum where it can be found you're kind of asking for trouble."

It doesn't appear any similar situations have occurred in Kern County, but statewide there have been controversies resembling this one.

In 2013, Stacie Halas, an eighth grade science teacher at a school in Oxnard, was fired after administrators were made aware she worked in porn years earlier. ABC news quoted a school official as saying numerous lies under oath, along with Halas' porn past, led to her firing. 

Halas later lost an appeal to keep her job after a three-person panel found she acted immorally, according to Reuters. 

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