Fitchburg Teacher’s Aide Goes On Paid Leave Over Modeling Photos
An expert says it seems a little absurd.
Sultry photos of a Fitchburg teacher’s aide, who moonlights as a nearly nude model for calendars and magazines, led to school officials asking the educator to take a step back from her classroom career while the administration investigates whether or not she violated the terms of her employment.
The teacher in question, Kaitlin Pearson, has been featured on magazine covers such as ModelsMania, where she was dubbed “Model of the Year,” and photographed in scenes with other naked women using only their hands to cover their bodies.
But an attorney with some experience in these types of public cases said he doesn’t see what the big deal is, and believes the school is bringing on unneeded media attention. “What’s the big deal? In this day in age? People are going to go crazy over people modeling in a nude position? Who cares. Of course it can be worse,” said attorney Anthony DiFruscia after being briefed on the case.
Pearson was put on paid administrative leave from the South Street Elementary School, where she works as a special-needs assistant, after someone sent the district a package containing a sample of the dozens of semi-explicit modeling photos that Pearson has posed for, according to the Lowell Sun.
On ModelMayhem.com, a site used to connect photographers with subjects for advertisements and other projects, Pearson appears in her underwear, and in some cases, with cut-off shirts that expose the bottom of her breasts.
Pearson’s profile on the page also gives a clear indication of who she is outside of the school setting:
I am energetic, creative, feisty, passionate about modeling, and I bring my love of life to every shoot! I have a background in graphics and business and as such I am as reliable and responsible as a model could be. I’m balancing modeling with a full time job, so my time is very precious. I am here to expand my modeling horizons and am interested in serious opportunities.
The 23-year-old Worcester resident, and model-slash-teacher, notes on her hiring page that she doesn’t shoot “full nudes.”
Attempts to reach Fitchburg superintendent André Ravenelle were unsuccessful, but the administrator said in a statement that it “is not uncommon” to open up this type of investigation at the onset “to assure student safety during the investigation and to mitigate potential disruption.”
Facebook messages sent to Pearson’s fan page were not returned, but an Instagram post the same day news broke about her school troubles indicated that she is keeping her head up. “My life might [not] be perfect, but it’s mine and I will live the way I want to,” the post said. The message appears alongside a picture of Snoopy sticking out his tongue.
But as school officials continue their investigation into any potential contract violations, the question remains: Did Pearson do anything wrong? And can she be fired for modeling?
DiFruscia doesn’t think she should be, but he said it depends on the circumstances of her contract with the school, and whether or not a union represents her.
“Two questions you have to ask: first, does she have a contract? Second, if she is a teaching assistant, she may be covered under the Union contract, because in every contract when dealing with public employees, they are the exclusive bargaining agent,” said DiFruscia, who represented a Lawrence couple that was recently let go from their jobs because they were expecting a child out of wedlock while working at a Catholic school.
DiFruscia helped that couple come to an agreement with the school out of court, but said Pearson’s situation is very different.
“Does she have a lawsuit per se? I don’t know the answer without knowing more about how she was hired, because her letter of hiring becomes part of her employment contract,” he said. “However, I do think it’s a stretch for the school department to dump her—if they do—because the publicity isn’t worth it for the school department. I think you need to have something juicier than that.”
Judging by Pearson’s other photos on Instagram, and messages of support from some of her more than 3,000 fans, a career in teaching might not be what she wants to do, anyway.
Under a photo of a woman holding a scorecard at a racetrack event sponsored by Monster energy drinks, she wrote, “My dream job. One day before I die, I pray to rock the Monster name.”
Followers told her that the recent publicity could help that career path.