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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Girl expelled over stripper mother
Christina Silvas
Ms Silvas says she took the job to pay the school fees
A California nursery school is at the centre of a national debate after it expelled a five-year-old girl because her mother worked as a stripper.

Christina Silvas, aged 25, said she took the job as an exotic dancer at Centrefolds nightclub in Sacramento to pay for her daughter's $400 a month tuition fees.

What is being said with the words and what is being modelled with the lifestyle is a very confusing message

Pastor Rick Cole
But the headmaster at the Christian school, Rick Cole, said that all parents signed an agreement that they would only engage in spiritually-enhancing activities and that therefore Ms Silvas had broken the contract.

The controversy has sparked a debate over whether a child should be punished for the sins of the parents.

The Capital Christian School is run by the 4,000-member Capital Christian Center, one of America's largest Assemblies of God churches.

Signed agreement

The school, which is adjacent to the church, stipulates that when a child is enrolled the parents must sign a document saying that they agree with the church's philosophy and will attend church regularly.

Exotic dancer
The church says nude dancing breaks the deal

Ms Silvas says that she did comply with the agreement - going to church weekly and upholding all of the standards of the school when the child is with her.

"I sought this school because I believed in their philosophy... and I have absolutely been committed to teaching the same things," Ms Silvas said.

Ms Silvas said she only began stripping to help shoulder the financial burden of the school's fees and that she only stripped when the child was away visiting her father.

"When I am at work, my daughter is not in my custody. When she is with me I absolutely uphold all the standards of the school," she said.

I want to find a school less concerned with image and more concerned with the welfare of children

Christina Silvas

The school issued an ultimatum - either the child or the job must go and when Ms Silvas refused to quit, the five-year-old was duly expelled.

Since the story hit the media people have come forward with offers to pay the tuition fees and find alternative jobs for Ms Silvas.

Compromise deal

And in the meantime both she and the school have hammered out a compromise to allow the child to complete her last few weeks of term so she can finish the kindergarten class as planned.

The child is allowed to return to lessons - but only if Ms Silvas takes a break from the stripping until then.

"My goal throughout all of this has been to do the best for my daughter that I possibly can," Ms Silvas said.

"Just as I decided to start dancing, I'm now deciding to take this pause for her benefit. I'm not doing this because I support the church's position," she added.

"I don't think the church's reaction was very Christ-like," she said - noting that the offers of help she received "came from outside the church".

What's your view on this story? Tell us what you think.

Have your say

Both sides are acting foolishly

Steve, USA
I'm quite embarrassed this story came from the US. Even so, she can't send her child to a conservative school and expect that the directors will ignore such activities as stripping. Both sides are acting foolishly.
Steve, USA

Whilst I disagree with the fact that the young girl is punished because her mother is trying to do the best she can for her, a contract is still a contract.
Tony, UK

I think Ms Silvas should be credited for what she did and not punished. As a mother she is unable to work full-time as this would compromise her ability to look after her daughter. Although stripping may not be deemed a suitable occupation for a responsible parent, I would imagine it pays considerably better than many other part-time jobs and is probably more fulfilling than some menial jobs such as cleaning or administration. Ms Silvas only stripped when her daughter was away and should be commended for keeping this part of her life away from her daughter. Ms Silvas is stripping, not prostituting herself and besides, it is highly irresponsible of the school to compromise a child's education on the grounds of what her mother does to pay for her tuition.

While I feel the school wasn't acting in Ms Silvas' daughter's best interests in expelling her, particularly since the term is ending in just a few weeks, I just don't get how Ms Silvas reconciles stripping with a fundamentalist Christian philosophy. Any sensible person would have predicted this was going to cause trouble when the church found out about it. If she wasn't prepared to honour the agreement she signed that she would follow the church's teachings, she should have found a different school for her daughter.

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13 Jun 00 | UK Education
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