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Nothing is ever safe on social media, and one teaching assistant in the U.K. recently learned this the hard way when a nosy parent found her professional modeling photos.
Gemma Laird was working as a T.A. at Bloemfontein Primary School in County Durham, where she says she was performing very well. “I had been doing really well in the job and was getting great feedback,” Laird, 21, told Metro. “They said I was a natural with the children.”
But as parents are wont to do, one of her student’s parents searched Laird’s name online and found fashion and lingerie photos from her work as a professional model at Lexi Fashions. This didn’t sit well with the parent, who brought it to school officials demanding answers.
“I was told that they didn’t want to damage the school’s reputation and that people would lose respect for the school if they found out I was a model,” she said. “Another thing she 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.”
The school confirmed that it did in fact let Laird go because of the photos, despite previously knowing about her side job as a model.
Laura Liddell, the head teacher at Bloemfontein Primary School, said “members of staff and those on apprenticeship placement in school are expected to adhere to certain standards of behavior, including in relation to their use of social media, and to set a good example to pupils.”
Liddell said that Laird’s images did not comply with school standards. “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,” she said.
This news comes the same week as Pietro Bosseli—a former University College London professor who was celebrated online last year when students learned he was also a male model—was named the new face of an Armani sportsline.
The whole experience has been harrowing for Laird. She said Liddell “made me feel dirty and like I was a prostitute. It’s ridiculous.”
It’s hard out there for a teacher/model—that is, if you’re a woman.
Marisa Kabas is a lifestyle reporter and activist. Her work has been published by Fusion, Fast Company, and Today. She’s also served as an editorial campaigns director for Purpose PBC, a social movement incubator.