A television news station in Pennsylvania has broadcast a non-story about a 10th-grade English teacher who, in her spare time, writes erotic romance novels under a pen name. If you follow any romance authors on Twitter, you’ve probably already heard about this incident, but if not you can view the “report” here.
Apparently some parents found out that Judy Barunich, who’s taught at a small high school in rural Pennsylvania for 25 years, writes racy romance novels as Judy Mays. These appallingly small-minded parents believe that this makes her unfit to teach their children. One of the mothers goes so far to suggest that the teacher might look at her son inappropriately in the classroom—just because she writes romance novels. I’m no lawyer, but that sounded like slander to me.
Mrs. Barunich does not assign these books to her class. She does not have her students write erotica for homework. By all accounts, she’s an excellent and inspiring teacher. So what business is it of anyone what she does outside of school?
There’s not much can be done if local, self-righteous busybodies decide to spread smears through local gossip. But it was grossly irresponsible for WNEP to join in that smear campaign. Seriously, where’s the story here? Writing smexy novels is not illegal. There’s no hint of impropriety in Mrs. Barunich’s professional conduct. The station claims at the end of the story that it tried to contact the teacher for comment, but she didn’t respond. Why should she? Why should she have to justify her second career because of a few dirty-minded parents who wanted their few seconds in front of a TV news camera? So the station ran a hideously slanted story for nothing beyond its titillation value.
News flash for WNEP and the disapproving parents: Teachers have lives outside of school! Often, those lives include sex! Some teachers even go so far in their sex lives as to have children! (To listen to them, you’d think these moms never did anything that smutty themselves. 😛 )
I don’t read much erotic romance, but I’m buying the work of Judy Mays to support her as she deals with this mean-spirited bullying. Here are her author pages at Ellora’s Cave and at Amazon in case you want to do the same. There’s also a Facebook community formed in her support that you can join. And many people are letting WNEP know what they think of the station’s poor judgment in running this non-story on the WNEP Facebook page. (If you don’t see the messages of support, click Most Recent above the wall posts. You have to like the page to leave a comment.)
The story left me nearly speechless. But here’s one thing I can say: “Go, Judy!”