School Board Chairman Resigns Over Bra Trick

Russell Fitzgerald bra trickRussell Fitzgerald usually started the school committee meetings with a magic trick. Last week, however, Fitzgerald's trick was met with stoney silence. And now he's resigned, after 11 years as chairman. Fitzgerald made the error of magically removing a committee member's bra through her clothes, or at least making it look like he had.

At last Tuesday's Abington School Committee meeting, Fitzgerald called up Abington's Teacher of the Year, Steven Shannon, and committee member Ellen Killian, reports The Enterprise of Brockton. Fitzgerald tied two handkerchiefs into a knot, and handed Shannon one end. Killian held the knot to her chest, the two men pulled, and out from under Killian's arms appeared a bra, miraculously.

The meeting, and its little intro show, were all televised live, and replayed on cable TV later that night.

The tape hasn't been released to the public, however. While such videos are public record under state law, the school Superintendent Peter Schafer quoted a "privacy exemption" in his explanation for withholding the tape.

"Ellen Killian is an innocent bystander and she has the right to be protected from public humiliation," Schafer told The Enterprise. "She and her family shouldn't have to live with YouTube and video hits of what happened on the Internet."

Fitzgerald gave Killian a public apology the day after the incident, and after a weekend of reflection hiking in New Hampshire, he decided to retire from the board, noting that he only had a few months left in his three-year term, which played a role in this decision.

The 49-year-old ice hockey fan is startled by the media attention, and hopes to dampen it by departing.

Bras, and their removal, are always a dangerous subject to joke around with in the workplace. Last month, a woman sued her boss at an electrical company in Utah for sexual harassment for instituting a No Bra Thursday and Bikini Top Friday, amongst other sexually charged demands.

It's doubtful that Fitzgerald could be charged with anything as serious as sexual harassment for his behavior. The definition of sexual harassment is "unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment."

Such a one-off event like this magic trick is unlikely to qualify as pervasive or severe. Rather, it's just embarrassing for everyone.

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