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People in Ohio who work with children or adolescents find themselves held to a high standard of behavior. The expectation is often that, in addition to performing duties related to the job itself, they will serve as role models for the young people they work with. Representatives of a New York school district recently told a middle school math teacher that she could no longer serve as a role model to her students after a topless photograph she allegedly took of herself three years ago recently came to light, resulting in the termination of her four-year employment. She is now suing the school district on the grounds that the firing was unfair. 

The 25-year-old teacher reports that she loved her job, and evaluations of her performance described her as “dedicated” and “outstanding.” She allegedly took the photo, which depicts her with exposed breasts, three years ago to send to another teacher in the district with whom she was in a relationship at the time. The school district found out about the picture from a student who somehow obtained access to it. The teacher claims that she never posted the photo online and does not know how it came to be in the student’s hands. 

An attorney representing the teacher claims that his client is the victim of gender discrimination because there are no penalties imposed when a man exposes his chest in a photograph. The teacher now plans to sue the school district for $3 million unless she gets her job back. 

Employment agreements often include some sort of clause in which employees agree not to engage in certain behaviors that the organization deems inappropriate or believes could hurt its reputation. It is unknown whether the teacher’s contract with the school district included any such stipulation. Asked for comment, the superintendent released a statement saying that the district does not remark on pending litigation. 

It may soon be the court’s responsibility to decide whether the teacher is the victim of a double standard. Employers facing wrongful termination suits may find it helpful to seek the services of an attorney.