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Teacher fired for underwear pics because society really is that sexist

Does a previous career as a model rule someone out as a teacher? Surely not — but that’s what 21-year-old Gemma Laird is claiming led to her losing her job as a teaching assistant at Bloemfontein Primary, County Durham.


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Laird was let go after parents tracked her down on Facebook and found photographs of her modeling underwear, reported One parent complained to the school, and Laird was summoned by the headmistress, Laura Liddell, who told Laird she couldn’t continue in her job on the basis that she would damage the school’s reputation and people would “lose respect for the school” if they found out about her modeling work.

“Another thing [Liddell] said was that some of the pupils have low self-esteem, and she didn’t want them to search for me on Facebook or Instagram,” said Laird. “She said she doesn’t want her year six pupils thinking it is acceptable to be a model. She made me feel dirty and like I was a prostitute. It’s ridiculous.”

The mum of one, who has never done glamour modeling, claims the school knew she had previously done modeling, and hired her anyway.

In a statement, Liddell said: “Members of staff and those on apprenticeship placement in school are expected to adhere to certain standards of behaviour, including in relation to their use of social media, and to set a good example to pupils.

“It was brought to our attention that images which were not appropriate and which did not comply with our expected standards had been posted on social media by a newly appointed apprentice. Unfortunately we felt that we had no choice but to bring the placement to an end in order to offer the person the chance to seek an alternative placement elsewhere at the earliest opportunity.”

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Laird’s story is interesting when you compare the reaction to another modeling teacher. Pietro Boselli, 28, who taught advanced math at University College London, was dubbed the “world’s sexiest teacher” last year after his students Googled him and found his modeling pictures.

Unlike Laird’s pictures, nobody seemed to have any complaints about this kind of thing:

Since his modeling background was uncovered, Boselli’s career has gone from strength to strength. He didn’t lose his teaching job for a start, but decided himself to take a break from academia to pursue his modelling career. He signed with top agency Models 1, and last week he was announced as the new face of Giorgio Armani’s sporty EA7 collection.

OK, so Laird worked with young children and Boselli with university students, but it’s still interesting how different their experiences are. Would Laird still be working as a teaching assistant at Bloemfontein Primary if she was male? Maybe, maybe not.

It’s the “inappropriateness” of Laird’s images I have an issue with. Is a photograph of a woman in underwear really inappropriate? By telling children it is, what message are we sending about the female body?

In any case, there’s no way any of the pupils Laird was working with would have had access to her modeling photographs. And if they had, it’s their parents who’re at fault for giving them free reign on social media — where there are no end of images that make a young woman in lingerie seem positively tame.

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