Leigh Anne Arthur, a high school teacher in South
Carolina, was forced to resign after a student stole her phone, found semi-nude photos of her, took photos of them and leaked them to other students in the school. Yikes!
Arthur, who was in the hallway for five minutes when the student found the photos, is being held accountable for the photos' dissemination, but she says she
should not be held responsible for the bad behavior of the 16-year-old
student who stole her phone. She contends that the student knew right from
wrong and chose to do the wrong thing and therefore should be held responsible
for his actions.
The student has been charged with Computer Crimes Act (because he accessed personal information on the phone without authorization) and Aggravated Voyeurism (because he copied and disseminated the photos). At the time of the school's Interim superintendent's statement on Friday, the student only faced possible expulsion from the school district.
In this age of social media, if we want privacy, it's up to all
of us to do everything possible to protect it. Today most smart phones have
locks or private codes that must be used to gain access to the phone's data. Arthur didn't have her phone locked. It is her right not to lock her phone, but since she worked in an environment with teens (who often take
risks and make choices that aren't well conceived), it makes sense to
protect one's personal information.
We might blame the perpetrator's behavior on his age, but in truth it is a result of something deeper.
But is it fair for Arthur to lose her job because a student
stole her phone?
It's true that 16-year-old boys are not always prepared to make
choices that are mature and responsible. We might blame the perpetrator's behavior
on his age, but in truth it is a result of something deeper.
"The student who actually took my phone and took pictures turned around and told me your day of reckoning is coming," Arthur told WSPA news.
It seems as if the student has not being taught proper conduct and has not been held to higher standards in his home and community. Clearly, even in his verbal threat, respect and honor
are things that he needs to learn. The actions of the student in this case
show that he had not been taught respect for his teachers and for
In Arthur's interviews and even in the interim superintendent's statement, no one questions if the community made
efforts to teach students good decision-making skills, to take responsibility
for their actions and that their choices have ramifications. In my opinion, the adults have failed. All
of us are either setting our children up for failure or preparing them for succeed by directly helping them develop tools for empathy and responsibility.
This is not the first news story of naked photos getting
into the wrong hands, and it won't be the last. I personally think it's fair to
have the teacher resign from her position, but only out of necessity. The teacher's
presence at the school will be so disruptive from this day forward that no
learning will occur in her classroom. What adult woman has the courage to work in
an environment in which teenage boys have seen naked photos of her? The thought
of it is paralyzing. More importantly, Arthur's safety is a huge issue; she says she's received physical reprints of those photos at home with a threatening note.
Unless the leadership at this school has the tools to make
this a teachable moment about respect, honor, privacy and how our actions
impact others, there is no way a woman can feel emotionally safe to return to
While some students are petitioning to have Arthur
reinstated, I hope that they're also finding a way to use this experience as an
opportunity for growth (and not shame), for everyone involved. The school
should establish a few guidelines and set an example: If something belongs to you and has your private information, keep it locked. And if something doesn't belong to you, don't
touch it, or there will be repercussions. We have to teach boys to grow into men who are responsible, caring and honoring of all