US Teacher loses her job, then her court appeal, due to Facebook

In 2009 someone sent an anonymous e-mail to the school district in Barrow County, Georgia, USA complaining about the Facebook page of teacher Ashley Payne. The teacher’s Facebook page showed her drinking while on a trip to Europe. One news report states that out of more than 700 photos, approximately 10 showed alcohol.

Other news reports state that Payne did not allow her students to be her friends on Facebook and that in none of the photos does she appear intoxicated.

Long story short, Payne was offered a choice by the principal of the school where she worked: resign or he would refer her case to the Professional Standards Commission and she would possibly lose her teaching license.

In a panic, she resigned and later tried to appeal the situation through the Georgia court system, with the help of her attorney, Richard Storrs. They lost.

  • Does your school or organization have a social media policy for its employees?
  • Do you what restrictions or limitations (if any) your employer has around employee behaviour on social media?
  • How much stock can an employer put into “evidence” found on social media?

These are some of the questions I’ve been working through with a new client. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.


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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


2 Responses to US Teacher loses her job, then her court appeal, due to Facebook

  1. gregqbear says:

    Unless her contract prohibited her from drinking outside of school (which I doubt) or the country where this is supposed to have happened bans alcohol for adults (also doubtful) then it’s a case of rough justice.
    Teachers are not 24-hour a day, 365 days a year on the job. They get holidays and are people too.
    She had no intention of sharing her outside life with her students, which shouldn’t have been a big issue anyway, as she was acting within the law.
    The only crime here is by the informant who probably wasn’t one of her “friends” and who invaded her privacy by trawling the Web for some dirt to expose more publicly. We need to know more of this person’s motives e.g. disgruntled parent, etc.

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