Should teachers be fired for nude pics from their past?

Lauren Miranda sent a nude selfie to a boyfriend years ago. Somehow one of her students discovered it.

  • Math teacher Lauren Miranda was fired from her Long Island school when a topless selfie surfaced.
  • Miranda had only shared the photo with her ex-boyfriend, who is also a teacher in the school district.
  • She's suing the school for $3 million as well as getting her job back, citing gender discrimination.

Chalk it up to the recurring "blame the woman" sentiment one gender has endured for eons. Only this woman is fighting back.

Math teacher Lauren Miranda walked into Bellport Middle School, situated blocks from Long Island's Bellport Bay, as she did every other January day. Only this one took a turn for the worse when a male student revealed he was in possession of a topless selfie of her.

At first, Miranda didn't even recognize the photo. Then she realized she had sent it to a male teacher in the district she had previously been dating. So far, she is still not sure how the photo leaked.

Miranda then had to meet with her (predominantly male) superiors and colleagues, who decided to fire her from her post despite an impeccable teaching record. Instead of cowering to the demand, however, she told Inside Edition:

"There's nothing wrong with my picture. My picture's pure, it's womanly. I think my body is beautiful, he thinks my body is beautiful also. Why should I not be able to take that picture?"

Then she hit the school district with a $3 million lawsuit and is demanding her job back. The focus of the lawsuit? Gender discrimination.

Should a teacher be fired after students discover a topless photo?

The firing seems ill-advised, especially considering other situations between students and teachers. Earlier this year in Arizona, sixth-grade teacher Brittany Zamora was discovered to be carrying on a relationship with a 13-year-old student. The teacher allegedly fondled the boy in class and had sex with him in front of another student. She was placed on administrative leave.

Former Miss Kentucky, Ramsey Bearse, was suspended from her position as a middle school science teacher in West Virginia after being accused of texting nude photographs to a 15-year-old former student over Snapchat last year.

There is no shortage of teacher-student relationships over the past few decades. Unsurprisingly, most media attention is devoted to female teachers and male students.

In Miranda's case, there was no relationship or sexting. Just the machinations of our digital lives impeding on personal privacy once again.

Yet we've entered a new and refreshing phase in American society, one in which women like Miranda don't back down when receiving unwarranted criticism or losing their job. Joseph Giani, the school district's superintendent, stated that he was about to recommend Miranda for a promotion before he saw the selfie; Miranda had received the top rating in every category the previous year during an evaluation.

Giani then said that Miranda "failed to take adequate precautionary measures" for blocking students from gaining access to the three-year-old photo, and even "caused, allowed, or otherwise made it possible" for students to get a hold of it.

Outside of Miranda's ex-boyfriend's phone or computer being hacked, there is likely only one other explanation. Worst case scenario, it's a plot between Miranda and her ex. Even if that were the case, however, the school board's reaction is overblown.

(Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Director Lina Esco attends 'Free The Nipple' New York Premiere at IFC Center on December 11, 2014 in New York City.

It's time for men to grow up and reckon with female sexuality. Scroll through any fitness feed in Instagram and you'll quickly discover thousands of dudes with their shirts off. Women have to spend extra time doctoring any "revealing" photo they want to post to ensure that their nipples are blurred or blacked out.

This entire spectacle reminds me of my first visit to France in 2000. Bus stops featured topless women; magazine stands were filled with nipples from every gender. From there, we traveled to Barcelona, where beaches do not discriminate when it comes to stripping down. None of this presentation or behavior is perceived as sexual or "dirty." It's simply part of the social fabric of expression.

Not in sexually repressed America, which is still waging a 400-year-long Puritanical battle against the female body. Instead of an opportunity for discussing femininity and feminism in the Long Island classroom, male administrators fell back on the expected: Ban the female. Honest conversations about sexuality and boundaries with students would provide actual teachable moments instead of the circus this has become.

It's time to stop blaming women for men's inability to control themselves. Freeing the nipple is only the first step into a broader and necessary discussion regarding human bodies. Until men are willing to engage in a meaningful dialogue on the subject, women will continue to be the victim of male immaturity, vitriol, and violence. That's no way to educate anyone.

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Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook.

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

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  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.