In the summer of 2009, teacher Ashley Payne posted the following picture to her Facebook, which she claimed had the highest privacy settings on, during her vacation to Europe.
But somehow an anonymous parent discovered this and reported the activity to the school’s head teacher’s office, where Ashley was called shortly afterwards. She didn’t understand what was going on, but the principal then offered her an ultimatum: resign from her position or be suspended. Her behavior on her account, which “contained profanity” (which would be one use of the B word) and “promoted alcohol use”, according to school officials, was unacceptable (TSFP). The author of Teacher sacked for posting picture of herself holding glass of wine and mug of beer on Facebook opened the article with “With a pint of beer in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, the worst thing you could accuse Ashley Payne of is mixing her drink” (TSFP). The author suggests that this unfortunate circumstance that Ashley Payne found herself in was unjustified and not what she deserved. They later go on to quote Ashley’s lawyer, since she was in “a bitter legal battle” after her resignation, where he uses the example of seeing your teacher having a drink with dinner at a restaurant with their partner (TSFP). No teacher would get fired for this behavior for any reason, and yet because Ashley shared pictures of this behavior and supposedly promoted it, officials at her school were offended.
Empathy is both present and lacking in Ashley Payne’s situation, and seems to be split into two ‘sides’. One side includes the anonymous mailer who reported Ashley’s account, as well as the school officials involved in forcing her to resign. This group is clearly lacking empathy for Ashley, and they were more focused on the example she was setting for her students, especially since she was a high school teacher and the pressure to get involved with alcohol is particularly high among this age group. However, from experience I know that most teachers don’t allow students to view their social media accounts until after graduation, and this should make sense because of Ashley’s claim that she had high privacy settings on her account. None of her students should have been able to see this. This is an opinion held by the group that does empathize with Ashley, made up mostly of retrospective viewers that see how ridiculous the situation was. She didn’t deserve to lose her job over something so arbitrary, especially since she is a legal adult that was on vacation. These conflict between these two groups arose from the initial social media post by Ashley, and subsequent action taken on social media for this to be reported. This is yet another instance where the audience of social media attacks posters ruthlessly and without consideration for consequences. The person who reported this was most likely astonished that this teacher could be posting something that seemed so offensive, and I’m sure they were happy that she wouldn’t be teaching their children anymore, but they had no regard for her life after this was over. She had to deal with so many legal issues and problems attempting to get her job back, or even a new one, but for someone online who is just responding to the immediate threat to their children’s education, this is all irrelevant.
The author of the article makes it clear that they are part of the group that empathizes with Ashley and the situation she was forced into when she didn’t deserve it. I agree with this stance, as I think the standard forced on her was inappropriate, and they should have cut her some slack. Instead, she was forced to resign from the job she loved because of the barrier that social media creates between an attacker and a victim that destroys any chance of empathy.