Facebook Photo Cost Teacher Her Job

It was a picture of her holding a glass of wine:

The pictures were exactly what you’d expect from a European summer vacation: Cafes in Italy and Spain, the Guinness brewery in Ireland. So 24-year-old Ashley Payne, a public high school English teacher in Georgia, was not prepared for what happened when her principal asked to see her in August 2009.

“He just asked me, ‘Do you have a Facebook page?'” Payne said. “And you know, I’m confused as to why I am being asked this, but I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Do you have any pictures of yourself up there with alcohol?'”

In fact, the picture that concerned the principal – showing Payne holding a glass of wine and a mug of beer – was on her Facebook page. There was also a reference to a local trivia contest with a profanity in its title.

Payne was told a parent of one of her students called to complain. And then, Payne says, she was given a choice: resign or be suspended.

“He told me that I needed to make a decision before I left, or he was going to go ahead and suspend me,” she said.

She resigned. Attorney Richard Storrs is fighting to get Payne’s job back.


  1. This also happened to another teacher. A 20-something had a Facebook photo of herself at a costume party. It was just her, dressed as a pirate holding a cup of beer. The caption was “Drunken Pirate.” She was fired, although no law was close to being broken. Freedom of Speech: It doesn’t apply when you are near a President (Bush’s infamous anti-speech bubble) or if you are a teacher. Land of the (not really) free and home of the lame.

  2. The important thing would be if there was even a written rule against this beforehand. Also, Facebook is “friends only.” Does that mean you can’t have any pictures of yourself with alcohol (in another country, no less)?

  3. If you are any kind of adult professional with a job and don’t have your profile set to maximum privacy and limit who is able to view your profile and pics, then you are a moron. Thanks for playing.

    1. I’ll agree that you should be careful about your settings, but what about those of everyone in your social circle? Or your friend’s friend’s photos?
      She wasn’t snorting coke, for Christ’s sake.

      No. At a certain point we’ve got to stop responding to puritanical hysteria. You don’t do what Crazy says: you tell Crazy to sit down and breathe slowly.

  4. As a high school teacher, this really frustrates me. An overage teacher, with (hopefully) no students as facebook friends should be able to post anything within legal reason, including photos. I hope she wins her lawsuit and finds a more suitable school district with an administration more concerned with their students rather than the personal lives of their teachers. (Thankfully my district has a drug problem larger than most New York City schools, and our administration doesn’t have the time to snoop on those that do their dirty work, or so I hope). Let the administration teach, then watch what happens to our already disgusting education system. Thanks GW, you fool.

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