The Naked Teacher Principle: The Principle states that a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.
Tiffany Webb is, or was, a 37 year-old guidance counselor in the New York City public schools. She had excelled at her job for 12 years until photos she posed for as a 20-year-old lingerie model turned up on the internet. When a student showed photos of Webb that he had found online to her principal, it was recommended that she be fired. After an investigation, an Education Department committee voted 2-1 to do just that, concluding, ‘The inappropriate photos were accessible to impressionable adolescents. That behavior has a potentially adverse influence on her ability to counsel students and be regarded as a role model.”
Her firing came as she was scheduled to gain tenure. Naturally, she’s suing. I hope she wins, because while the committee’s rhetoric is in line with the sound reasoning behind the Naked Teacher Principle, the facts dictate that this is the point—and all rules have such a point point— where “ethics incompleteness” occurs and the rule, however valid it is the vast majority of the time, accomplishes unethical rather than ethical ends.
The Naked Teacher Principle doesn’t apply to Tiffany Webb because:
1. She is not naked, though the photos doesn’t leave much to the imagination, either. OK, forget #1.
2. It was 17 years ago. There has to be some statute of limitations on the NTP. I don’t know what it should be, but I know the number is less than 17 years.
3. Webb did not post the pictures, or pose for them when the internet was as ubiquitous and intrusive as it is today.
4. Nor were the photos posted under proper authorization from her or anyone else. Many have been photo-shopped, she says.
5. Most important of all, she fully disclosed her lingerie model past to the Board of Education when she was hired.
6. Unlike most cases of the Naked Teacher Principle, the teacher’s judgment and sense of responsibility is not in question.
That’s enough for me.
In this case, Tiffany is blameless, except, perhaps, that she has kept herself in good enough shape over the years that her 20-year-old image is still sufficiently recognizable to cause her embarrassment. (I hate people like that, don’t you? Where’s that Twinky?) She has done nothing wrong whatsoever, and the presence of her revealing photos on the internet should not be held against her. They certainly should not cost her the career she has excelled at.
“I am a dedicated professional and enjoyed being a guidance counselor,” she told reporters. “I did my job well, and my students and parents thought very highly of me. I would love to return to (New York City schools) and resume the career I have chosen to help and guide students.” Indeed, she is the innocent victim of the Naked Teacher Principle, and ethics principles aren’t supposed to have victims. This time, it just doesn’t work.
Facts, Graphic: NY Post
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