Normally, a career as a movie actress wouldn't be a liability for a drama teacher. But a 73-year-old instructor at an elite Montreal private school has lost her job after it was discovered she appeared nude in several films in Europe more than 40 years ago.
In a sign of how the Internet can turn even one's distant past into grounds for dismissal, the prestigious Brébeuf College has terminated the contract of teacher Jacqueline Laurent-Auger after some male high-school students found some of her early acting repertoire online.
Ms. Laurent-Auger's early films, including such titles as Le journal intime d'une nymphomane (The Secret Diary of a Nymphomaniac), date to the 1960s and '70s when she was a struggling actress who had just graduated from theatre school in Montreal and moved to Paris.
"I did it as a young actress to make a little money," she said in an interview on Monday. "The idea of throwing someone out the door for something they did almost 50 years ago is idiotic. It makes me angry."
Her story has elicited widespread sympathy in Quebec since it first surfaced late last week. Meanwhile, the school – a Jesuit-founded institution that groomed leaders such as Pierre Trudeau and his son, Justin – has come under attack for a decision characterized as prudish and shortsighted. One blogger called it a case of "retroactive slut-shaming."
School director Michel April declined a request for an interview on Monday. However, in a statement released Sunday to quell the growing storm over the controversy, Brébeuf said it was acting in the students' best interests by ending Ms. Laurent-Auger's contract after 15 years.
"The fact that these films were shot 40 years ago doesn't change their bold and suggestive – even explicit – character," said the college. The Internet had brought the "erotic portion of [Ms. Laurent-Auger's] career into the present," and the students' discovery of their teacher's films affected the atmosphere in class, the school said.
"The availability on the Internet of erotic films in which she acted created an entirely new context that was not ideal for our students," the school said. "After discussion and reflection, we concluded that adult films must remain just that, a product for adults. That's why we decided not to renew Mrs. Laurent-Auger's contract."
Ms. Laurent-Auger stars in some of the films, which feature "erotic scenes," raising the question of whether the movies are "models to follow for high-school students becoming initiated into theatre and arts in general," the college said.
Ms. Laurent-Auger said when she was brought in to school offices to be told of her sacking in July, she asked if there was any problem with her teaching performance. She was told there was not.
"This is petty and small-minded," she said. "We're in the year 2014, not 1950."
She said the films in which she performed were not pornographic, but part of an artistic trend of openness in the film world in the 1960s and '70s. "I would never do pornography," she said. "We called them light, erotic films, and they have nothing to do with the kinds of things you see today."
The school was widely derided for its decision. In the Journal de Montréal, blogger Tania Longpré said many actors have some nude scenes in their repertoire, and they can't afford to refuse them on the chance that one day they might want to go into teaching; she said Brébeuf's decision hid "hypocritical puritanism."
Journal de Montréal columnist Lise Ravary said the school was acting to protect its "brand" as the most prestigious school in Quebec, and didn't want to be tarnished by a pornography-tainted "mini-scandal."
"When you're the Apple of private Quebec colleges in Quebec, you protect yourself," she wrote, adding that the school was more concerned about the value of its image than "the values of its students."