High School Teacher Forced To Resign and Blamed For Student Stealing and Distributing Her Nude Photo
Leigh Ann Arthur, a mechatronics teacher in Union County, South Carolina, resigned after a nude photo of her was publicly shared by a 16-year-old male student.
While Arthur was outside her classroom greeting students, this teenage student picked up her phone from her desk and went through her private photos. He came across a nude photo of her, which she said she’d sent her husband on Valentine’s Day. He then took a picture of her nude photo with his own phone and shared it with other students and on social media.
According to Arthur, when she came back into the classroom the student handed her phone to her and said, “your day of reckoning has come.”
Most would think that this type of grotesque invasion of privacy would result in some kind of immediate punishment for the student and sympathy for the teacher.
The school district reacted by blaming Leigh Ann Arthur and gave her an ultimatum – resign or go through dismissal procedures.
This past Monday, Union County school superintendent David Eubanks, told a South Carolina newspaper – The State – that he didn’t know whether or not the student would face disciplinary action. He went on to say: “I think we have a right to privacy, but when we take inappropriate information or pictures, we had best make sure it remains private.”
On Wednesday, someone placed copies of Arthur’s photo in her home’s mailbox with a threatening note written on one of them. She reported it to the Union County Sheriff’s Department, which opened an investigation.
Then on Friday, the student was arrested and is currently being held by the Department of Juvenile Justice. He is facing charges of violating the state’s computer crimes act and aggravated voyeurism.
Arthur says she is “relieved and proud they are holding him accountable and responsible for his actions.”
Eubanks now says that the student may be expelled from school by next week. But despite the criminal charges and pending expulsion, Eubanks continues to victim-blame the teacher.
He is holding her responsible for having her phone unlocked and unsupervised on her desk. Because Arthur had previously used her phone as a tool in the classroom (she says this occurred one time with one student), Eubanks has been arguing that this somehow justifies the student’s actions.
Eubanks seems to thinks we all have a right to privacy… but not if we dare take naked pictures for ourselves and store them on our own personal devices.
Does this sound familiar? It’s the same bullshit arguments people were making in 2014 when a 4chan user hacked into female celebrities’ iCloud accounts and leaked their private nude photos.
In the wake of this celebrity nude photo hack, the overwhelming responses heard around the world went something like, “Don’t take nude photos and this won’t happen!”
There was very little discussion about the hacker, not to mention what criminal charges they might face for committing such a horrible act. There wasn’t even much discussion about the infallibility of technology that billions of people use every day. Technology that’s trusted with all sorts of users’ personal and private data.
Instead, the reactions were almost only about victim-blaming. People acted as though the celebrities were responsible for this happening to them. The celebrities were shamed for taking nude photos in the first place. They were treated as though taking nude photos indicated a lack of morals, intelligence, self-respect or dignity.
Had it been emails or text messages that were stolen and shared, would people have had the same reaction? Would they have said, “Haha you idiots, don’t use email!”
In a 2014 survey by Cosmo, 89% of women said they’d taken nude selfies. In McAfee’s 2013 “Love, Relationships and Technology” survey, 50% of respondents reported sharing “personal intimate photos or videos” with their significant other / friends. And a 2014 Pew survey found that sexting is a rising trend. Of cell phone users age 18-24, 44% of them said they had received sexually suggestive photos or video.
So what is it about nude photos that makes people deny others’ right to privacy? Especially considering that the large majority of people have taken and privately shared (or privately kept) naked photos of themselves?
Of course it’s not as if creating and sharing nudes or sexual images is anything new. People have been drawing, painting and photographing themselves naked since the dawn of time. Give people a creative medium and they will make nudes with it. It can be a form of artistic expression and / or sexual expression. It can be fun, it’s human nature and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
So, why do we condemn and victim-blame those who take nude selfies?
I think the answer lies in society’s old deep-seated issues with body shame and sexual shame. The popular culture, especially in the USA, claims that the human body is inherently sexual and immoral. It says that unless it’s being used to sell something, the naked human body it too taboo to be seen and therefore must be kept private and hidden. Modesty and body shame are promoted as pious and moral, while sexting or taking nude selfies is considered deviant behavior.
Women are especially punished because of slut-shaming and sexist double standards. It was disturbing how the 4chan users treated these female celebrities as though their bodies were public property. These men gleefully consumed and distributed their stolen images while all the media could say was, “Don’t take nude photos!”
In another case of a female teacher losing their job due to having taken a “sexy” image, in 2013, Florida teacher Olivia Sprauer was fired when her professional bikini photos were discovered.
Now we’re back to hearing the same old story with this teacher from South Carolina.
There is a bright side to Arthur’s nude photo story. Her students are rallying to support her and started a petition to have her reinstated.
“Leigh Anne Arthur is the victim of a blatant attack of her privacy. Personal photographs were illegally obtained by a student and were sent to other students in the school (Union County High). After being escorted off of school property, we (the students) are left to believe that she has been forced to, or given little choice but to resign. Mrs. Arthur has not only shown tremendous dedication to her students, but also the mechatronics program itself, often reaching out to local businesses and colleges to get materials that would not normally be available for the class.”
With that being said, the student(s) responsible have not yet received any sort of punishment. The circumstances in which Mrs.Arthur was let go are simply unacceptable, and must be corrected. We strongly urge you to sign and share this petition.”
As of Saturday March 5, the petition has nearly 13,000 signatures.
Leigh Ann Arthur has said that if the school offers to reinstate her, she’s not sure she’d return. She also told local NBC station WFFNY that she forgives the student in question because “We all make stupid decisions when we’re 16.”