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Teacher Axed for Facebook Photos

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Is this okay?

Ashley Payne

A former English teacher at Appalachee High in Barrow County, Georgia, says she was forced to step down over her Facebook profile, and now she's suing.

Because her profile page contained pictures of her with beer mugs and glasses of wine from her European vacation, Ashley Payne claims her principal said she had to go.

"I visited the Guinness Brewery, I went to Italy and had wine. I went to the Temple Bar District of Dublin and drank some alcohol there like any normal adult would," said Payne. "[The pictures are] not even of me drinking the drinks, and I don't look like I'm intoxicated in any way or doing anything provocative or inappropriate."

Payne's Facebook page is private, and she says that she doesn't allow students or strangers to become her friends on the social networking site.

"I did not think that any of this could jeopardize my job because I was just doing what adults do and have drinks on vacation and being responsible about it," said Payne.

She also posted that she was headed out to play Crazy Bitch Bingo, a popular game played weekly at Joe's On Juniper in Atlanta. The principal complained she was using expletives on her page since she had used the word "bitch."

Last year, Pamela Rogers Turner, a former elementary school teacher who was prosecuted for having sex with a 13-year-old student over a three-month period, got in trouble for posting racy photos and a sexy striptease video on her MySpace page. This raised the question of whether teachers should have MySpace or Facebook pages at all.

Of course, Turner's content was WAY more racy than Payne's. Do you think Payne should have been forced to resign? And should teachers be on Facebook in the first place?

next: Sometimes All Really Is Fair in Love and War
33 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jenn D November 13, 2009, 2:41 PM


What do I care if my child’s teacher drinks when they aren’t working? What do I care if they use foul language. So long as they aren’t drunk, hung over, or swearing like a sailor in front of my kids (that’s my job), it’s absolutely none of my business.

Charlene November 13, 2009, 3:06 PM

Ridiculous. (enough said)

Anonymous November 13, 2009, 3:06 PM

This is ridiculous. Not like I would want a lush for my child’s teacher but come on, she was on vacation having some wine. If teachers should be fired for doing something LEGAL on their own free time, then the rest of the world should too. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Science Teacher November 13, 2009, 3:16 PM

Teachers have a higher standard than “normal” adults, to use Payne’s description. Whether we like it or not, we have to be more careful about anything that could be construed as negatively influencing our reputation as a teacher. If the young lady thinks its normal to visit breweries and bars on vacation, no one is stopping her. To post photos of her doing so on facebook, however, was not very wise.

Teachers don’t check their rights at the door when they become teachers, but they do take on a higher standard of conduct and responsibility than others.

Alex November 13, 2009, 3:22 PM

This is ridiculous. Your job and your social life should be separate. The only time the two are every combined is when you’re a politician. A teacher has one job, teach. When they’re day is over, they go home and live life just like everyone else.

Science Teacher November 13, 2009, 3:29 PM

Alex, had this teacher gone home and lived life, this wouldn’t have happened. She felt a need to post pics of her with alcohol in hand, clearly a bad decision and violation of most school systems’ ethics policies. Also, what is not being mentioned here is that this teacher quit in a rage when faced with a possible ten-day suspension. She was not fired or asked to resign.

AW November 13, 2009, 3:38 PM

Ridiculous. It’s an invasion of her privacy. I could see a problem if she allowed students on it or made it public, but she’s entitled to her personal life same as anyone else.

I can’t see any judge siding against her.

Daniel November 13, 2009, 3:48 PM


Science Teacher — Do you really feel that it is somehow unethical for an adult to drink on their personal time? Or to be seen doing it? This is not a mainstream opinion, and it’s certainly not anything I’d passed on to my (or anyone else’s) children.

It seems that teachers like you have gotten so caught up in a disciplinarian’s mindset that they’ve forgotten that their students will one day be mature adults, trusted to make their own decisions. Surely it profits them nothing when we attempt to bowdlerize every mundane aspect of everyday life.

If the teacher instead posted baby pictures, would you be accusing her of encouraging teenage motherhood? What if she discussed voting in an election with a class of high school students — does this send a message to teenagers that election fraud is alright?

Essentially you’re imposing a personal, and controversial, belief — that there’s something wrong with adults drinking — on your students when you make statements like this. You’re a science teacher; how would you like it if the guy in the next room was teaching creationism in his biology course?

David Lo Pan November 13, 2009, 3:53 PM

OMG, this is the U.S.A. correct? Not The Soviet Union. Who cares what a teacher, an adult does on their own time, as long as it doesn’t affect the job they do. And yes, they should be able to have social networking accounts. They are people, what is wrong with some people? I hope she gets a ton of money from her case.

Chelsey November 13, 2009, 3:57 PM

This is ridiculous. Are teachers supposed to stop being people just because of their job title? Are they not allowed to share memories of their vacations with family and friends through Facebook? Besides, she has her Facebook on private, which means her students can’t see any of her pictures or any of the things she says. I find it unbelievable that people just don’t seem to get that part. Her students were UNABLE to see the pictures (of course, NOW they’ve seen it, thanks to the news). So, yes, this is ridiculous. And she’s an adult, she’s allowed to drink. It’s not like she posted pictures of her holding a doobie or something. If her students think it’s OK to drink because their teacher did, one simple thing can fix that: “She’s an adult, you’re a kid. You can’t drink until you’re twenty-one.” And if they do it anyway, well then they probably would have done it on their own eventually and the parent needs to step in and be the parent. Stop relying on teachers to parent for you.

Jenn D., I find it funny that you pointed out that it’s your job to swear in front of your kids and not the teachers. =P You brought up a good point, whether or not you meant to. I learned to curse from my parents. Most kids do (if not from parents, then from their friends who learn it from THEIR parents…which is where my best friend picked it up =P). Why should teachers have to act more responsibly than their student’s parents do? I mean, they shouldn’t be allowed to curse or anything while with students (though college professors do, which was QUITE a shock when I was an “innocent” *snicker* freshman), but you can’t keep them from going out into the world and being real people.

mirsydmom November 13, 2009, 3:59 PM

Let it go. Science teacher, get a life! this teacher did nothing wrong. this is 2009 and we dont live in a communist country. I just moved to GA and almost everyone here drinks a glass of wine from time to time and most certainly while on vacation. I hope the principal gets his walking papers.

Another Science Teacher November 13, 2009, 4:12 PM

I am also a science teacher I find it ridiculous that someone could be suspended over a facebook picture of her holding an alcoholic drink. As stated the FB in question is not open to the public nor does she have any students as friends. The teacher in question was not seen to be drunk or hung over nor promoting alcohol to students. This means the only way the senior management of the school would know is if a) they where her friend or b) a work ‘friend’ told them. Most schools have policies that say not to add students on social networking sites (and quite rightly too). Teachers are human beings and have rights to a private social life. As long as what you do outside of work (and away from the pupils) is lawful then it is no one else’s business. I hate this growing culture that says teachers should be whiter than white ALL the time. We already have higher standards than many jobs in terms of our conduct at work and I don’t want anyone dictating to me what I should be doing outside of work. How can we expect to impart the right to think for ones self on to our students if we stop thinking for our selves?

b November 13, 2009, 4:51 PM

I also was a teacher before my children were born and agree with Science Teacher to the extent that we are expected to maintain higher standards. We should exemplify the ideal of what it means to be a mature, law-abiding, adult citizen in this country. I don’t think that’s news to anyone; however, it saddens me to think that this girl was so immature as to make a scene about the whole thing. Now, because of her “rights” to post pictures (and I’m not saying she doesn’t have the right to—that’s a whole other topic of discussion as far as I’m concerned) she will sue the school, probably win, and cost the school district thousands of dollars that they already don’t have. What a selfish and self-centered thing to do just to prove a point. And what point does it teach? That my rights are more important than my responsibilities? Nice one. So, now her students (and everyone elses’ students) will be without needed textbooks, computers, and staff all so she can show her friends her trip pictures. Could she not have just been mature and said, “Let’s make a deal, since my profile is private, the only thing that people see publicly is my profile pic; how about I change it as soon as I get home tonight, and we move on with our lives?” Stupid—what a waste of money. I hope she goes public with her profile as I would love to see all her vay-cay pics from the trips she’ll be taking with tax payer money that could have been used to help our schools.

MarMar November 13, 2009, 6:46 PM

I agree this is ridiculous. What, she’s a legal adult and she’s not allowed to drink?! Let me point out too that this is a public school - if it were, for instance, a religious private school whose religious doctrine forbids drinking, that would be one thing. But this is ridiculous. Send her to Ohio, we’re always looking for some good teachers here and we don’t care if they have a nip or two when they’re not at work!

Anonymous November 13, 2009, 10:25 PM

Why, when she resigned in August, would she wait until November to sue? The school adopted a policy regarding online behavior for teachers a year before this happened! Ashley was a teacher then. She could have asked for a school board hearing, since it was “recommended” that she resign. She made a rash decision. And all we have is hear-say in that she “says” she was not friends with students. How then would a student’s mother find her, or, more importantly, even look for her in the first place?

-English teacher

Sara November 14, 2009, 6:11 AM

Since when did drinking responsibility become unethical?

I could understand (but still think was absurd) if she was half naked and obviously plastered, but she’s drinking responsibly. Something that is NOT unethical at all.

Are these teachers also not allowed to have a beer with dinner when they go out because someone might see them?

I see nothing wrong or unethical about her photo and wouldn’t think it was wrong if she had it in a frame on her desk.

Social Studies Teacher November 14, 2009, 8:55 AM

And let us not forget that this county had NO policy regarding facebook or any other social networking site before this teacher was fired… or forced to resign (one in the same to me). I’ve been following this story and as a teacher and parent I find this story to be totally insane.

teacher November 14, 2009, 8:59 AM

PEOPLE… THE SCHOOL DID NOT HAVE A POLICY BEFORE SHE WAS FIRED. I don’t understand why people keep saying that. The Barrow County paper even wrote an article about how THEY WERE THINKING about instilling a policy in regards to online behavior and teachers one month after she was fired. Please do your research!

Jen November 14, 2009, 10:54 AM

This is absolutely ridiculous! The woman was having a drink over a meal or having a beer at a pub on her own time. She was on vacation. Her facebook is private, none of her students are her friends. I’m sorry, but I am failing to see the problem. She is a adult woman who can legally drink. She is not doing anything illegal nor is her conduct unethical. She is showing pictures of her vacation to family and friends. As long as she does not come to school drunk or she is not engaging in illegal activities, then what she does in her own time is none of anybodies business. Period!

Jenny November 14, 2009, 2:44 PM

Okay, this is absolutely ridiculous! Her page is set to private so no students are seeing it and this is her private life. I fail to see why it should affect her professional life. Shoot even if she had had some scantily clad pictures on there, no one else is meant to see them and it is her off job life. As long as she is appropriate in front of her students than that should be what matters.

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