Ruling goes against Barrow teacher who lost job over Facebook posting

Ruling goes against Barrow teacher who lost job over Facebook posting

Siding with a local school district, a Barrow County judge has ruled against a former teacher who lost her job because of her Facebook posting, Channel 2 Action News reports.

Ashley Payne had sued to get her job back, and the Barrow County schools had filed a motion for summary judgment.  Superior Court Judge Chief Judge David Motes heard arguments in the case in August and recently returned his decision.

Payne resigned from her job at Apalachee High School in August 2009 after someone claiming to be a parent sent an email complaining about pictures of Payne smiling while holding alcoholic drinks during a trip to Europe.

Payne had also written she was headed to a game of "Crazy Bitch Bingo" at a Midtown restaurant.

Payne said she was pressured to resign over the email. The district said she volunteered.

The woman, now a graduate student at the University of Georgia, subsequently filed suit, asking the court to determine that she was entitled to a due process hearing. She also sought back pay and money for legal fees.

The latest court decision was not unexpected by Payne and her attorney Richard Storrs, given the time delays in getting their day in court. Storrs said Monday night that he filed an amended complaint with other claims.

After so much time, Storrs said getting Payne's job back was unlikely, so he is now seeking monetary damages.

Storrs said he is arguing that Payne was deprived of her property rights without due process because Barrow pressured her to resign by misrepresenting that a parent had complained even though the district had no idea of the source of the email.

The challenge is that Georgia law tends to maintain that if employees resign, even when their hands are forced, it doesn't equal an involuntary termination.

"Basically, we are claiming that she wasn't told her rights to a statutory hearing, that the basic premise of what was going on was misrepresented to her, that it was a complaint by a parent when they didn't have the information," Storrs said.

-- Staff writers Maureen Downey and Jaime Sarrio contributed to this article.

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