A struggling elementary school in West Palm Beach, Fla., is considering returning a $20,000 gift because the donor is the owner of several gentlemen’s clubs, according to the Miami Herald.
Joe Rodriguez, a former Marine who has been married for 30 years and has six children, said he regrets not finishing high school, reports the Herald. Over the years, he’s raised at least half a million dollars (through car washes and sporting events featuring “scantily clad women”) to donate to charities for at-risk and underprivileged children.
His recent donations have helped save a park for at-risk teenagers from closing and helped send a high school in Broward County to Washington, D.C. A Broward County spokesperson said the school had no problem accepting the money because Rodriguez’s strip clubs are legal and so is his charity organization.
But after learning what Rodriguez does for a living, some people in West Palm Beach think it’s best to give their gift back.
The executive director of the Christian Family Coalition, Anthony Verdugo, argues that taking the money would send the message to kids “that it’s O.K. to exploit women.’'
It had been previously reported by the Palm Beach Post that the district was going to ask the school—Roosevelt Elementary—to return the money, but a district spokesperson told the Herald that it’s up to the principal to decide.
“I think it’s very small-minded,’' said Rodriguez. “If you ask someone who has cancer if the money to help them is coming from a strip club, I don’t think they would care.’'
Mayor and pastor Eric H. Jones Jr., who accepted a $50,000 donation from Rodriguez to save his city’s park, takes a similar stand and emphasizes the benefit of the businessman’s charitable giving.
“One has to look at the broader picture,’' he said. “This is a business that is legal, even though, in a lot of circles, it isn’t fully received by society. But we’re not living in a world where anyone is on a perfect pedestal. You have to ask ‘Does the good outweigh the bad?’''
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.