A Canadian high school teacher has been put on leave after reportedly wearing prosthetic breasts in class.
Parents of students at Oakville Trafalgar High School southwest of Toronto, where Kayla Lemieux taught shop class, grew frustrated after months of debate regarding her appearance.
Officials from the school district said she was put on paid leave earlier this week, according to the New York Post.
“While not currently on an active assignment, the teacher remains employed with the” Halton District School Board, spokesperson Heather Francey told the Toronto Sun.
The decision to place the teacher on leave came after The Post reported that journalists followed her and discovered she only wears prosthetics in class and appears to dress as a man while not at work.
Ms Lemieux told The Post that the man in the images they published wasn’t her and said she had a rare condition leading her to have a larger chest than normal.
The paper reported that the teacher was suspended after the Minister of Education of Ontario Stephen Lecce and Members of the Provincial Parliament Natalie Pierre, Stephen Crawford, and Effie Triantafilopoulos criticised the school board for having “abdicated its responsibility by failing to put the interests and safety of students first,” The Sun reported.
A mother, only identified as Lynn, told the board on Wednesday that “forms of identity and expression presented in the school environment [must] be scrutinized against the child’s safeguarding practices”.
Both school officials and the teacher have become the target of threats, and meetings of the education board have grown chaotic.
The Post last month reported that “once outside school, Lemieux often ditches the breasts, wig and makeup and appears as a man”.
A neighbour told The Post that she wears the outfit seen in school “extremely infrequently”.
But Ms Lemieux told the paper that the man in the images published by the outlet isn’t of her and she rejected the notion that she wears prosthetics.
“These are real,” she told the paper.
“This is who I am. This is how I look. You’ve been talking to people in my building but what they’re telling you is harsh and untrue. I am always going out looking the way I am,” the teacher added.
She added that she started hormone replacement therapy in 2021. She said she was “in transition,” but added that she isn’t “a transgendered person” but that she was born “intersex”.
She said she has never been diagnosed but told The Post that her large chest was caused by “gigantomastia”.
“Gigantomastia is a rare condition where your breasts become excessively large. It can cause pain, infection, discomfort and issues with body image. Your healthcare provider can treat gigantomastia with breast reduction surgery or medication,” the Cleveland Clinic site states.
“The speed at which your breasts grow can vary, from over a few weeks to over several years. The tissue is almost always benign (not cancerous),” it adds.
“It’s an uncommon condition. Only about 300 cases have been reported,” the site states.
Parents have told the Halton District School Board to put in place a dress code for teachers. It was rejected last year following concerns that it might not be in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
The school board agreed in January to work to create a policy for teachers to have an “appropriate and professional” appearance.
Ms Lemieux told The Post that she “would follow the direction of the board on what they mandated” but added that “I don’t think there’s any problem with how I have dressed. It’s the personal opinion of other people. I don’t think I have dressed unprofessionally”.
The Independent has reached out to the Halton District County School Board for comment.