A teacher in South Carolina has resigned after she said one of her students stole nude photos from her cell phone and put them all over the internet.
Leigh Anne Arthur, a 33-year-old mechatronics teacher (mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field of engineering), told BuzzFeed News she left her cell phone, which does not have a passcode, on her desk for a few minutes while she patrolled the halls of a Union County high school on Thursday, Feb. 18. “At the end of the class, the student then did approach me and said, ‘Your day of reckoning is coming,’” Arthur said. “Kids being kids, I didn’t think twice about it.”
The following afternoon she said she was informed that nude photos she had taken for her husband on Valentine’s Day were being shared on social media. She believes the student, who she said had been failing her class, used his own phone camera to photograph a copy of the revealing photos.
“I felt mad and violated because that’s my privacy,” she said. “It definitely hurts.”
She said the school’s principal told her on Feb. 22 to “lay low,” but the following day she was told the district superintendent was asking for her resignation. After speaking with her church pastor, she said she spoke with the superintendent, David Eubanks, about why they were asking her to resign.
“He told me it was because I had inappropriate material on my phone and that I had made it easily accessible to students,” Arthur said.
Local NBC affiliate WYFF4 reported that Eubanks told them Arthur was “in the wrong because her phone was unlocked and she made the nude picture available to her students.”
After first declining to speak, school superintendent Eubanks provided the following statement to Buzzfeed News:
One of the most critical responsibilities that a classroom teacher has is the supervision of students. In this particular case there was a breakdown in the classroom in that most critical area. Evidence and statements indicate that the teacher was not where she should have been at the time the incident occurred. As a result, a student accessed inappropriate material on her phone, sent it to others, and as a result also may also be severely punished by law enforcement as well as the school district. This is a case where a staff member, properly supervising students, could have prevented a very serious problem.
He also notes that “evidence indicates students routinely used the teacher’s cell phone with her full permission.”
Leigh said she resigned on Feb. 24 while in a state of shock, but then asked to retract her resignation the following day. “We teachers can be bullied in certain situations,” she said. “I was not in the right emotional state to make the decision about my career.”
She’s since filed a police complaint alleging phone harassment by the 16-year-old student and the incident is under investigation. No charges have been filed at this time.
According to Leigh, the school has yet to take any disciplinary action against the student. The superintendent says they’re going to determine the extent of the student’s punishment based on whatever law enforcement finds.
“One error, along with many false statements, by a teacher, has and will affect the lives of many,” he said.
More than 1,600 people have signed an online petition demanding the school district reinstate Leigh. “The circumstances in which Mrs. Arthur was let go is unacceptable, and must be corrected,” the petition reads.
“I know I haven’t broken any laws,” Leigh told BuzzFeed News. “I stand by what I did. We all have inappropriate images on our phone. It’s OK to be involved in a passionate relationship with your husband.”
“I have to stand up for myself,” she said. “If I were just to forget about all this I would feel like a piece of dirt because I would allow the district office to roll all over me.”
We see this two different ways:
- As a teacher, it’s her responsibility to keep her classroom under control. Her leaving kids unattended (even for a brief period) leaves herself vulnerable for anything to happen — including something like this.
- The student DID go through her personal phone…which is unfair and out of her control.
Do you think she should have been forced to resign?