B.C. teaching assistant could be fired over OnlyFans account, district warns

Click to play video: 'B.C. teaching assistant battles school district over OnlyFans account'
B.C. teaching assistant battles school district over OnlyFans account
WATCH: A B.C. teaching assistant is in a battle with the Coquitlam school district over her adult social media posts. Christa Dao reports. – May 8, 2023

WARNING: This story may contain details that are not suitable for all readers. Discretion is advised. 

A B.C. teaching assistant is currently in a battle with her school district over her social media posts.

Kristin MacDonald previously started an OnlyFans account under a different name, Ava James.

She told Global News that as a single mother, the income from the account, which is subscriber-based, supplements her income as a teaching assistant, which she said is not enough to support her and her child.

On April 28, MacDonald, who is currently recovering from back surgery, said she was notified of a complaint about her internet profile. School District 43 said she was in violation of an article in the collective agreement and warned she could be fired.

“My reaction when I received the letter, obviously, this is a controversial topic,” MacDonald told Global News. “I took precautions in order to keep all my fans and my education job separate.”

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She said she was nervous about keeping the account going and going public with her story but she believes it’s the right thing to do.

“I do believe that I should be able to continue on,” she said. “I’m not hurting anyone. I’m not breaking the law. So I stand by where I’m at right now.”

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In a statement, the school district said “As a matter of course, the district will not provide information regarding any individual.”

Global News also contacted CUPE 561, which represents the workers, but did not hear back from them before publication. MacDonald said the union has been very supportive and several coworkers have reached out to express their support as well.

MacDonald explained OnlyFans is a consent-based platform and everyone has to have their identity verified to use it. She said a user also has to have a verified credit card and she never used her real name in her only profile.

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“I really want to talk about the stigma… and let’s have more conversations about women owning their sexuality, being proud of their body. How many women can say that? I think so many of us are insecure and feel shame when we express sexuality and we’re shamed by society. And that’s really what I want to speak on and be an advocate for that.”

Susanna Quail, an employment lawyer, told Global News this is a complicated case.

“There are many factors that are considered when determining whether an employer has any basis to discipline or otherwise control off-duty conduct,” she said.

“Some of the factors that matter, for example, are is it impacting the employer’s reputation? And that’s likely what they’ll say in this case is that they have a legitimate interest in ensuring that there’s not a sense in the public that this school district, is a place where there may be some questionable behaviour by staff.”

However, Quail said as MacDonald’s OnlyFans account is private, she is entitled to some privacy of what she does during her off-duty hours.

She added it does depend on what MacDonald’s collective agreement states.

“I think one thing that’s going to be difficult for the employer, in this case, is education assistants like this worker are not very well paid at all,” Quail said.

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“They generally make about $25 an hour and they only get 25 to 30 hours a week. So it’s not a sustainable income that someone can raise a family on. And so they have to have second jobs. And if you’re only offering someone a job at 25 to 30 hours a week, about $25 an hour, and only 10 months of the year, you could lose some of the kind of moral higher ground to say, ‘I’m going to dictate what you do with the rest of your time’.”

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MacDonald said she cannot live on her salary as a teaching assistant.

“We don’t make a livable wage, and we’re in one of the most expensive places in Canada,” she said.

“I do love my job. I love connecting with students. I think I’m good at my job.”

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But as of right now, MacDonald said she doesn’t know what’s going to happen.

“At this point, honestly, it’s the wild, wild west,” she said. “I’m not really sure what to expect.”

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Quail said, in her opinion, if school districts and the Ministry of Education want to have this kind of control over what education assistants are doing with their lives, then there is a responsibility to pay them a wage that allows them to devote their energy and their attention and skills to being an education assistant.

“They are a critical part of the school system,” she said. “Students with disabilities cannot get an equal education without their support. And I think there’s a bigger systemic issue here, which is we should be asking why does someone who has the specialized skills of supporting students with disabilities, why does that person have to have another job, whether it’s OnlyFans, whether it’s serving in a restaurant, whatever it is?

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“Why aren’t we attracting, recruiting and retaining these skilled professionals to support our students with the most serious needs in our system? And I think that’s a question no one’s paying enough attention to.”

Quail said it is an important distinction that OnlyFans is subscription-based, which minors do not have access to.

“The skills that a good EA brings to their work are phenomenal,” she added. “The work that they do is incredibly demanding and their pay is honestly, it’s shockingly low and in my view, not even as a lawyer, but just as a parent in the system.

“This work is seriously undervalued and that’s where you end up with a situation where an EA has to take other jobs to make ends meet.”

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MacDonald said she knows this is a controversial topic, but it’s an important one.

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“I think that there’s a lot of stigma behind it,” she said. “But also know that I am an intelligent, educated woman. I have a great relationship with my family.

“Just because you’re on OnlyFans creating content that is spicy and adult-oriented, it doesn’t mean that you’re not a high-functioning, great person.”

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