It might not seem like a big deal to leave your smartphone on your desk for a few minutes at work, but if you’re a teacher, it could get you fired. In South Carolina, a high-school engineering teacher resigned under pressure Tuesday after one of her 16-year-old students looked through pictures on her phone, used his own phone to photograph some provocative shots of her, and shared them with friends and classmates.
Leigh Anne Arthur told WYFF 4 that she took the pictures for her husband and that the student snooped on her phone while she was on hall duty. She said, “He had the ultimate decision to take pictures of my pictures, and he had the ultimate decision to send them out.”
But Union County School District interim superintendent David Eubanks said that Arthur should have passcode-protected her phone so students couldn’t access it. “I think we have a right to privacy, but when we take inappropriate information or pictures, we had best make sure it remains private,” he told the State.
Eubanks told WSPA 7 that Union County High is worried that Arthur may have been contributing to the delinquency of a minor by leaving the phone out and unprotected when it had inappropriate content on it. The Union County Sheriff’s Office and the Union Public Safety Department are reportedly both investigating the situation.
Leslie Garfield, a professor at Pace Law School, told Salon that Arthur probably doesn’t have any legal recourse. A desktop in a classroom is not “a place where the average person would not have expected [an object] to be intruded upon.” If the phone had been in a drawer or purse, Arthur would have a stronger privacy claim. “I think the school does, unfortunately, have the right to fire her,” Garfield said.
Last year, a sales executive got fired for uninstalling a GPS app her company used to track her movements all the time. That seemed like a pretty obvious privacy issue, but don’t forget that not protecting your own privacy well enough is a risk, too.