Digital privacy and gender discrimination in the workplace
Updated: May 6, 2019
Teacher claims she was fired over topless selfie she sent to her ex-boyfriend.
By Meg Taylor, News Editor
A Long Island middle school teacher is suing the South Country Central School District for $3 million, claiming she was unlawfully fired over a private photo that was released without her consent.
Lauren Miranda was fired March 27 when a topless selfie that she sent to a former boyfriend three years ago surfaced in the hands of a student at Bellport Middle School.
“I think it is absolutely absurd that I am being fired over my chest,” said the 25-year-old math teacher. “I’ve lost everything I’ve worked so hard for over a selfie.”
According to her lawyer, John Ray, officials wrongfully chastised Miranda over the image, which was sent to her then-partner, another teacher at a different school. She was eventually fired her for not being a proper school “role model.”
“This would never have happened to a male teacher,” Ray said. “The Suffolk County Administrators and School Board have not yet discovered that women are equal to men. Lauren is rightly proud of her female torso. A woman’s breasts are not inherently prurient.”
“This photo was sent between two adults,” said Miranda. “This is my private life. Yes, I am a teacher. Do I carry out my role model face in environments where I might run into families or run into students? Absolutely. I’m entitled to a private life, though. … What kind of role model am I, to now roll over and hide? I am showing my face and saying something happened to me that I didn’t want.”
Miranda is suing the school district, citing the debate over digital privacy and gender discrimination in the workplace.
“Men and women are equal; it’s 2019,” she said. “My chest is no more offensive than a man's chest. So why am I being penalized? Where if a man took the same picture, he wouldn’t be in the same situation I’m in.”
According to Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer whose firm represents victims of online sexual privacy breaches, this case is about an employer who is not keeping up with the times and has archaic notions about what sexually appropriate conduct is.
“A responsible reaction would be to investigate it, to help the victim report it to the police, to help them contain the spread of the image, and not to just take her livelihood away from her,” said Goldberg in an interview with ABC News.
If this were to happen here at Valley College or at any other community college in the LACCD, the situation would have been handled much differently. According to district officials, since the student found the photo on his own, it has nothing to do with the teacher’s behavior toward the student in the classroom. Therefore, there are no grounds to fire the instructor. “If an LACCD administrator thought there was any impropriety, the district could launch an investigation,” said Deborah Kaye, Communications Director, AFT Faculty Guild 1521. “The union would provide the instructor with assistance from the grievance rep on campus and the chief grievance officer for the Faculty Guild. If necessary, the instructor would be provided with the services of an attorney. The union would ensure that due process was followed every step of the way.”
According to WABC, the Suffolk school district would not make anyone available to speak about the situation, only saying in a statement on behalf of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani, "The district does not comment on active litigation."