Posting vacation photos on Facebook cost Ashley Payne her teaching job, and more than a year later she’s still waiting to see whether a court will order Barrow County Schools to put her back on the payroll.
In August 2009, the then 24-year-old resigned from her job at Apalachee High School after someone claiming to be a parent sent an e-mail complaining about pictures of Payne smiling while holding alcoholic drinks during a trip to Europe. Payne had also written an expletive on her page, saying she was headed to a game of "Crazy Bitch Bingo" at a Midtown restaurant.
Payne said she was pressured to resign over the e-mail; the district said she volunteered.
A year later, Payne is waiting for a court to decide whether she is entitled to a due process hearing. She is also seeking back pay and money for legal fees, said her attorney Richard Storrs.
Since leaving Barrow, she hasn’t been able to find another teaching position.
“She never was able to find a job because things have been kind of bad for teachers,” Storrs said. “She’s done some part-time jobs and seasonal jobs but not a teaching job.”
When interviewed last year, Payne said she didn’t friend students on the social networking site and that she took steps to ensure the content of her page was private. The Georgia Professional Standards Commission, which investigates ethics complaints against teachers and can bar them from the classroom, reviewed the case last fall and determined there was no probable cause to issue a sanction.
Since the incident, Barrow County Schools has changed leadership, which Storrs hoped would bring resolution to the case.
Wanda Creel, who took over as superintendent of the district April 1, would not comment in detail except to say the lawsuit had not been resolved. Speaking generally, she did offer some advice to educators.
“I always encourage our educators to recognize that the network is a public forum and that we need to always set our professional image and standard for how we are depicting ourselves for our students and community,” she said.
A hearing is expected to take place before the end of the year.