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Teacher Was Forced to Resign After Nude Photo Leak, But Was It Fair?

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.

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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 others' property.

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 this environment.

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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 people.

Photograph by: Associated Press

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