Massachusetts teaching assistant in trouble over modeling photos … really?

A teacher’s aide in Fitchburg has now been placed on paid leave after sexy modeling photos of her were discovered online.

According to CBS Boston and the Lowell Sun, Kaitlin Pearson, 23, works as a teacher’s assistant for a special-needs class in South Street Elementary School. On the side she also models for lingerie and has appeared with implied nudity and topless in shoots, like the cover of ModelsMania magazine last September. Pearson with a profile on the website Model Mayhem, which helps aspiring models find jobs. Photos of Pearson modeling can be easily accessed with a Google search. South Street Elementary School does full background checks on its employees, but does not search for them on the internet. The school’s superintendent Andre Ravenelle was made aware of the pictures after an anonymous packet was sent to her, as well as Sentinel & Enterprise (a local Fitchburg newspaper), with an angry note attached (which some believe may be from someone purposefully attempting to get her fired). Pearson was then immediately put on paid leave.

Okay, seriously? It seems rather absurd that in a society where sexuality is freely broadcasted on television, the movies, advertisements, and even music, that this should be an issue. What century is this again? A perfectly capable and completely normal teacher’s assistant is being placed on leave and potentially fired from her job because of something which shouldn’t even be causing any concern in my opinion. If a girl wants to model, that is entirely up to her. Modeling, even in lingerie, is a completely valid profession that should be given the respect it deserves.

It wasn’t as if she was making a pornographic movie or prostituting herself to earn some cash on the side. This is a job that thousands of young women aspire to, and before Kaitlin can make it to Victoria’s Secret, she probably needs to build her portfolio. I cannot claim to know all the fine workings of the modeling business, but I do know that it is a cutthroat world and this is helping her get a footing. In addition to a nascent career in the lingerie sector, she is also choosing to support herself with a relatively steady job as a teaching assistant. From my modest experience, working with special needs students is as rewarding as it is difficult. Kaitlin must be indubitably patient and kind with her students, and has by now probably formed bonds with the kids. If by some awful happenstance she were to get fired, it probably wouldn’t bode well for the school (who would have to find a replacement), or the students. Of course, this is total supposition. I don’t know Kaitlin personally, and I haven’t seen her in action.

But what this whole issue boils down to is (once again) what society deems appropriate for women to do. By putting Kaitlin on paid leave, the administration is basically telling her that she can be a TA, or a lingerie model, but she can’t be both. Why is that exactly? Does her modeling in any way inhibit her capacity in the classroom? If this story were to appear on a website like Tumblr.com, users would probably comment (very forcefully) that this is just our archaic, sexist, misogynist way of life. Our bodies as women are not our own. We do not have the inherent right to do what we want with them, show them to whoever we want, or call them our own. Kaitlin certainly doesn’t. Her body is owned by the person who choose to send in that packet, and the superintendent who temporarily suspended her, and all the people who hear about this story and curl their lips in disgust, because how could someone in as decent a profession as education, someone who works on a regular basis with our youth, possibly do something so sinful and scandalous? It’s almost like the rape culture argument that I see so often appear on my Tumblr feed. A girl who chooses to wear a sexual outfit because she is confident with herself and her body is not by any means asking for it. This is just an example of how far our fairly liberal, progressive society has to go before women can truly be independent. But that’s just my two cents. And as for Kaitlin, I hope you know- we are all rooting for you.

UPDATE: According to Boston.com, Kaitlin Pearson has now been reinstated to her teaching aide job as of Monday, after the case was reviewed. Congratulations on the wonderful news Kaitlin!

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