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Teacher forced to resign after student allegedly steals nude photos from her phone

Technically Incorrect: In South Carolina, an engineering teacher says student got into her phone and shared private pictures she had made for her husband. The school blames her.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Leigh Anne Arthur. Was it her fault?

WYFF-TV screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Logic and justice don't always play well with education.

Sometimes, stories emerge that make one ponder about intentions, priorities and, indeed, education itself.

This might be one of those stories.

Leigh Anne Arthur used to teach mechatronics -- mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer programming -- at the Union County High Schools Career and Technical Center in Union, South Carolina.

However, as she told WYFF-TV, she left her phone on her desk while she went to patrol the halls for five minutes.

While she was out, she says, one of her students looked through her unlocked phone and "took pictures of my phone and sent them from his phone."

The photos in question happened to have been created for her husband as a Valentine's Day gift. They also happened to show her partially unclothed.

The student "had to hit my apps button and open up all my apps and open my gallery," she explained to WYFF.

Some might imagine that, if the story is as she tells it, the school would have immediately tried to find the miscreant and punish him.

Instead, the school district decided it was her fault. She should not have left her phone out unguarded, it says.

The school district didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. However, David Eubanks, the district's interim superintendent, told the State newspaper that Arthur had been given two choices: resign or go through the dismissal process. She resigned last Tuesday.

"I think we have a right to privacy," Eubanks told the State, "but when we take inappropriate information or pictures, we had best make sure it remains private."

What was truly inappropriate? The pictures? Or the student allegedly getting into Arthur's phone and "sharing" those photos with an unknown number of people?

The case comes at a time when Apple is attempting to establish the idea of your phone as a fundamental part of your privacy. The company's CEO has called it an issue of morality.

It's unclear whether the student is being disciplined for any sort of immoral behavior at all. Arthur told WSPA-TV that the student had told her: "Your day of reckoning is coming." She claims his parents told her they were on her side.

Of the student, Arthur told WYFF: "He's 16. He's going to make stupid decisions."

The members of the school district aren't 16. How might their decision be characterized?

This isn't the first time something like this has happened in schools. In 2013, a teacher at an Ohio Christian school had her private photos posted to a revenge porn site after her phone was stolen. The school suspended her.

At the time, a school spokeswoman explained the decision like this, "We don't want to compromise the learning environment for our children."

In Arthur's case, WSPA reports that she's filed a police report and the student's phone is now in the possession of the Union County Sheriff's Office.

Perhaps she'll find some justice there.