The Ethics Alarms Naked Teacher Principle (NTP) states:
A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result. The first formulation of the NTP can be found here.
I suppose I need to circulate this more widely, because some schools apparently are confused, such as Union County High School in South Carolina. In a completely warped and unfair application of the NTP, school district officials in Union County demanded and received the resignation of engineering teacher Leigh Anne Arthur after a student stole her phone, examined its contents and found a semi-nude selfie (intended for her husband’s enjoyment only), which he shared with his classmates.
The district’s David Eubanks said that the district’s position was that the 13-year teaching veteran was at fault for leaving her phone unlocked on her desk when she went out of the room, and that she had, in effect made the pictures available to her students. He also said that the engineering teacher’s actions may have contributed to the delinquency of a minor.
The technical terms for Eubanks are unethical, unjust and illogical. The kid stole the phone before he knew what was on it. He would have stolen it even if it had been locked. Arthur didn’t make him a delinquent; he was already a delinquent. How far would the school board take their absurd logic? If the kid stole her purse, found a key in an envelope with a bank account number on it, and the student took it to a bank and got into her locked storage box, and in there was the combination to a warehouse storage locker that contained a nude oil painting of her that was painted when she was an artist’s model, and he stole the painting and held an exhibit of it in his garage, charging admission, would the school system fire the teacher, or expel the student for an outrageous invasion of privacy, as well as theft?
Had the teacher taken the selfie, sent it to selected friends who then posted it on Facebook and other websites, that might trigger a particularly unfortunate application of the NTP. Yes, high school teachers may not responsibly have provocative photos of themselves floating around on the internet, unless they have given due warning to their employers and the employers assent. However, no logical or ethical principle exists holding that it is irresponsible to the point of mandatory dismissal to have such photos on a private phone.
True, phones can be hacked, meaning that only moral luck separates the teacher whose naughty selfies are seen only by her significant other and the teacher whose phone is criminally invaded and her private life exposed on the internet. I teach tech ethics, and I advise against putting anything on your phone that you don’t want on the front page of a supermarket tabloid. Still, holding a teacher responsible for the consequences of a criminal act by a student prompted my a momentary lapse is cruel and unfair.
Arthur had a reasonable, if not entirely correct, expectation of privacy regarding the contents of her private phone. Her mistake was trusting her students, the bastards, for a brief period. She did nothing wrong, including taking the photo. The students were wrong.
The Naked Teacher Principle must not extend to stolen cell phones.
15 thoughts on “The Case Of The Involuntary Naked Teacher”
This is victim blaming.
It’s victim firing.
I hope she gets a good lawyer who takes that school board to the cleaners.
I thought the “harm” from the NTP was that the teacher/student relationship was damaged, and could never be recovered, because knowing what the teacher looked like underneath their clothes was so corrupting that the student could no longer respect the teacher and their authority? And if so, wouldn’t that damage occur whether the exposure was voluntary or not? Or are we just punishing teachers for being voluntarily naked at some point?
I don’t agree with the NTP in general, so for this specific post, I agree with your outcome, if not your reasoning. I don’t think nudity, in and of itself, is a good reason to fire someone. I don’t think nude pictures of someone on the internet, whether put there voluntarily or not, is a good reason to fire someone, absent any other reason. People will fantasize if so inclined, whether or not there are pictures. Having some concrete images doesn’t really change the equation much in that respect.
You fire teachers for irresponsibly damaging the student-teacher relationship, or risking same. The NTP says that teachers who place their naked bodies where students see them are being irresponsible, and that they can’t complain if they are sacked. It doesn’t say they have to be sacked, though in many cases, though not all, they should be. By extension, it says that women who do this before they are teachers better tell employers up front, and if they don’t get hired, it’s their own fault.
None of which applies fairly in this case.
By extension, it says that women/b> who do this before they are teachers better tell employers up front, and if they don’t get hired, it’s their own fault.
One of my problems with the NTP is that it does seem unfairly skewed to the perspective of a straight male student with a female teacher. In many places, students might see their teacher naked in person, while showering at the school or local gym they both frequent. Should the teacher resign at that point? Would it make a difference if the student was gay, and now could clearly, if they wished, picture the teacher in their fantasies?
After a certain point, it’s just a body. Whatever you picture in your head with that body is on you. If you cannot continue to be respectful after realizing that *gasp*, underneath those clothes, everyone is naked, including your teacher, then that is also on the student, not the teacher. I don’t think the teacher should force people to look at their naked bodies, but the discovery that a teacher has one I don’t see as being particularly devastating.
You have seen the disturbing incidence of female sexual predators in high school. It’s not just a body. It distorts the student-teacher relationship. Mothers who parade around in front of their teenage sons naked often prompt serious psychological issues. Same thing. They are children. The NTP doesn’t extend to college.
If the teacher is sexting a student, that is one thing. But the student discovering nude pictures of a teacher, where the teacher had nothing to do with the discovery, is another thing altogether.
It’s not just a body. It distorts the student-teacher relationship. Mothers who parade around in front of their teenage sons naked often prompt serious psychological issues. Same thing. They are children.
How does this logic still not apply whether or not the teacher voluntarily took the pictures or not? If it is the “body shame”, wouldn’t the results be the same whether the student found the pictures in the phone, her ex-boyfriend posted the pictures on some revenge site, or she put the shots up herself? Wouldn’t the relationship, by your logic, be distorted at that point no matter what?
I’m not sure about your college point. I think my point was, what if we had a teacher who enjoyed swimming recreationally. They go to their local gym, which is also hosting a high school swim meet. Everyone changes in the locker room and takes a group shower. Several of the teacher’s (same sex) students are there and see the teacher naked. Would it be ethical to fire the teacher under the NTP? What if the students were gay?
1) A teacher who allows nude pictures to be published is of course responsible.
2) Sexting is a sexual overture, and not the same thing or category
3) Today seems to be “read half of what Jack writes day.” The issue is twofold: teacher culpability and lack of transparency, and reduction of a teacher to a sex object, undermining her effectiveness and authority. The revenge site scenario is right at the margins. I’d say that the teacher’s effectiveness was harmed and the school might be justified firing her, depending on the photos (hard core porn, for example). That would still be unfair, but the school’s first duty is to students, not teachers. Same thing if the teacher’s e-mail was hacked and she had a message that said, “I really hate the little bastards, but it’s only a few more years of putting up with them and their moronic parents.” If it were maliciously e-mailed to the class or the parents, she’s have to go.
Your issues with the Principle and your attempts to find inconsistency with this situation fall apart when considering *who initiated the exposure of the nudity* and *reasonable expectations of privacy*.
In this situation, the teacher DID NOT initiate the exposure BECAUSE of reasonable expectations of privacy.
In all other instances that you raise to be analogous, the teachers were the one initiating the exposure into media where there was little to no reasonable expectation of privacy.
Thank you. I’m tired, and I wasn’t as clear as that.
I would submit however, that there still must be teacher-student separation, but since, in this case, the student is the bad actor, he ought be the one removed from the school and those who saw the pictures removed from the classroom, at a minimum.
This is insanity!
Union County School District board should be sued for demanding the resignation based on the unethical and illogical application of NTP; in my opinion, this is unjustified defamation and worth a PILE of cash for Leigh Arthur.
Also the student that stole the phone and his family should be sued for both the theft and the intentional act of defamation, I don’t give a damn that he’s a minor.
This is confirmed criminal activity followed up by a perfect storm of complete stupidity that has likely destroyed the future employability of the VICTIM that did absolutely nothing wrong!!! The victim did nothing wrong and yet her life is being destroyed. This is all F’ed up!
Thanks, Z. Looked like wrongful termination to me.
“I really hate the little bastards, but it’s only a few more years of putting up with them and their moronic parents.”
Hahahahaha. Been hanging out in teachers’ lounges lately Jack? Presumably the expectation of privacy there will endure. I think it was the teachers’ lounge that drove me out of teaching high school after a year and a half.