In January, Lauren Miranda, a 25-year-old math teacher, was told by the principal of New York’s Bellport Middle School that a male student had a topless selfie of her.
Soon after, she was put on paid administrative leave. Her lawyer claims that school administrators told her that she could not keep her job at the school because the picture made her a poor role model for students.
Then, last week, the school board fired Miranda in a closed-door meeting. On Monday, she took steps to sue the South Country School District, the superintendent and Board of Education members for $3 million, claiming gender discrimination.
The photo was taken in 2016 and sent by cellphone to another teacher in the school district whom she was dating at the time, according to the notice of claim. Miranda said she has never posted the photo anywhere and is not sure how it got into the hands of the student.
“My career has been ruined, my reputation has been tarnished, I have been stigmatized,” Miranda said at a news conference Monday.
In court documents, Miranda claimed that the school district refused to conduct a “full and adequate” investigation but fired her based upon her gender.
The teacher had met with the school board twice before it fired her, Newsday reported.
The claim asked that Miranda be reinstated to her job or be paid damages of $3 million.
Miranda’s attorney, John Ray, contends that the matter comes down to antiquated ideas of women and their bodies, calling the district and the superintendent “backward.”
“What’s the problem with the picture?” Ray told The Washington Post on Tuesday. "When you look at it, and compare it with a man’s picture, there’s no problem. The only distinction is that her nipples can suckle children, and his can’t.“
The school district declined to comment on Miranda’s case, saying in a statement from Superintendent Joseph Giani that “the district does not comment on active litigation.”
It is unclear if the student who obtained the photo was disciplined.
Miranda, who Ray said had been teaching at the school for nearly four years, said she had been doing well at the school before the incident.
A teacher observation report, allegedly from the South Country Central School District and provided by Ray, says the teacher “demonstrated in this lesson to be an outstanding Math instructor, knowledgeable of her content area, but most of all genuinely dedicated to the academic progress of all her students.”
The Post could not independently verify the report.
New York state law allows women to appear topless in public, a fact that her lawyer also mentioned.
Miranda defended the photo, which her lawyer’s office provided to the media.
“What is wrong with my image?” she asked at the news conference.
She said her lawsuit was also a signal to others in the school, a message to girls who have had “their photos Airdropped all over the high school and sent all over.”
“What message are we sending to them?” she said. “To roll over when your picture gets exposed without your permission or consent? So how am I now not being a role model to them?”