Tiffani Webb had been a guidance counselor in New York City schools for 12 years, when scantily-clad photos from her past modeling career re-surfaced on the Internet. She was fired days before getting tenure, and has since changed her name and taken a teaching post in New Jersey. But now she's suing, reports the New York Post, claiming wrongful termination, sex discrimination, and violation of her First Amendment rights.
Webb, now 37, says the photos were taken between the ages of 18 and 20, but that the images now floating around the internet (including the one above) are doctored -- her face put on another woman's body -- and have illegally found their way onto seedy websites like "Mo Girls Entertainment" and "Showgirlz Exclusive," even though she requested for them to be taken down.
When she was first hired, Webb informed the Department of Education about her past career, the Post reports. But she was investigated three times anyway, and spent two separate years in the "rubber room" -- a limbo where teachers must wait, away from students, until officials complete an inquiry. But last December, a few days before Webb was set to get tenure as a $84,200-a-year counselor at Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers, she was officially fired for "conduct unbecoming" of a Department of Education employee.
A three-member chancellor's committee made the decision 2-1, with the dissenting voice defending Webb's stellar professional record and the consensus questioning the effect that her photos might have on students. "The inappropriate photos were accessible to impressionable adolescents," the ruling stated. "That behavior has a potentially adverse influence on her ability to counsel students and be regarded as a role model."
Webb, who also has a Internet talk show "Girl Talk NYC," is suing the New York City Department of Education for reinstatement, back pay and punitive damages.
Webb is one of a number of educators who have run into trouble for a past career that had a sexual element. Melissa Petro was a New York teacher when she confessed on The Huffington Post that she had spent a few months selling sex on Craigslist. She said that she wanted to fight the stigma associated with sex work, but the stigma won: Petro was forced to resign.
In 2010, a Massachusetts school put Kevin Hogan on paid leave after it emerged that he had acted in several adult movies. The community rallied in defense of the English teacher and crew captain, but Hogan ultimately parted ways with the school. And in a similar story that same year, Shawn Loftis was fired from his substitute teaching job in Miami-Dade County after a principal discovered gay sex films online that Loftis had starred in and directed, under the pseudonym Collin O'Neal. Last year the Florida Education Practices Commission decided to reinstate him, however, because his adult film work wasn't illegal.
Webb contends that her termination was not only unconstitutional, but unfairly targeted her as a woman. The complaint states that "male actors and models who were New York City teachers have not been terminated despite suggestive pictures ... taken of them," reports CourthouseNews.
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