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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Over-Punishment in New York City Schools Has No Positive Outcome

I have been the advocate for more than 100 children who have been suspended from their respective New York City schools, so I know what is going on. The same process used to unfairly accuse a teacher of some kind of misconduct and get him/her removed from the school in which he/she works is used against children of color every day. I fight this, just as I fight suspending a child for no reason. See my article on "T":

T Wins at His Impartial Hearing After the NYC Board of Education Denies Him a Free and Appropriate Public Education

I can say that a child of color with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) has no chance to succeed in the New York City public school system.

The NYC public school system targets children, and forces their parents to accept a sentence of "a few months" in a detention center as punishment for crimes that were never committed. The 'School To Prison Pipeline' is alive and well.

Criminalizing the Classroom

November 29, 2009
Over-Punishment in Schools
New York Times

New York City joined a national trend in 1998 when it put the police in charge of school security. The consensus is that public schools are now safe. But juvenile justice advocates across the country are rightly worried about policies under which children are sometimes arrested and criminalized for behavior that once was dealt with by principals or guidance counselors working with a student’s parents.

Children who are singled out for arrest and suspension are at greater risk of dropping out and becoming permanently entangled with the criminal justice system. It is especially troubling that these children tend to be disproportionately black and Hispanic, and often have emotional problems or learning disabilities.

School officials in several cities have identified overpolicing as a problem in itself. The New York City Council has taken a first cut at the problem by drafting a bill, the Student Safety Act, that would bring badly needed accountability and transparency to the issue.

The draft bill would require police and education officials to file regular reports that would show how suspensions and other sanctions affect minority children, children with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. Detailed reports from the Police Department would show which students were arrested or issued summonses and why, so that lawmakers could get a sense of where overpolicing might be a problem.

Most important, the bill would create an easily navigable system under which parents, students and teachers could file complaints against school security officers. This provision comes in response to a 2007 report by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which said students were being roughed up for minor infractions like talking back or walking the halls without a pass.

The Police Department and the Department of Education are sometimes stingy with data. But the City Council is on the right track when it says that the disciplinary system could benefit from greater transparency. Lawmakers who are negotiating with the city over the language of the bill should keep this basic point in mind.

November 4th, 2009
Problems with over-policing our schools

By Marian Wright Edelman

Imagine being four years old and put into handcuffs because you and your friend wouldn’t take a nap in your pre-K class. Or being five years old, handcuffed, and taken away from your school by ambulance to a hospital psychiatric ward after throwing a tantrum in the kindergarten room. These scenarios might sound far-fetched, but both are true stories that captured the local media’s attention after they happened to children at their New York City public schools. The over-policing of public schools - not just in New York, but around the country - is one more threat to our nation’s children at risk of entering the pipeline to prison.

In New York, the expanded police presence started becoming especially obvious about ten years ago when the New York Police Department (NYPD) took control over school safety from the Board of Education. By the start of the 2005-06 school year, the NYPD employed 4,625 School Safety Agents in New York City schools - more personnel than there are officers in the police forces of Washington, DC, Detroit, Boston or Las Vegas, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) report, "Criminalizing the Classroom: The Over-Policing of New York City Schools." In addition to increasing the numbers of these school safety agents, who are unarmed but can make arrests, the city also launched the Impact Schools Initiative, in which armed police officers have been deployed in the city’s "most dangerous" schools. Modeled after the NYPD’s Operation Impact program for fighting street crime, the initiative is designed to flood those schools with armed officers and surveillance cameras. Over the last five years, a total of 28 schools have been designated as "impact schools."

A June 2005 report by the Drum Major Institute found that impact schools were among the most overcrowded and underfunded in the city and serve a student body that is disproportionately poor, Black and over-age for their grade. Another report by Fordham University found that targeting a school as an impact school led to a significant decline in attendance there. This is exactly the opposite of what schools serving poor, at-risk youths should want to happen. But since the NYPD-takeover of school security, many students and teachers have said that their schools feel more like prisons than places of learning.

One English teacher described the scene this way in the NYCLU report: "On this random Wednesday morning, scanners were set up in the cafeteria of the public high school in the South Bronx where I work. Students’ bags were placed on a scanner, they were forced to walk through metal detectors, and any item deemed inappropriate for school - including food, keys and spare change - were taken away. Many students were patted down, some even with their hands on a police car. An overwhelming ratio of adults to students made the cafeteria seem a lot like a police station...[C]an we please not treat already-struggling, inner city teenagers who have gotten themselves to school like they’ve committed a crime?"

In some ways, the sense that too many schools are turning into prisons is very real. Students are learning that many school disciplinary incidents, including the kind that used to end with a trip to the principal’s office, can now lead to an arrest. The NYCLU recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request in order to obtain police arrest data, and learned that the NYPD has illegally arrested over 300 students under age 16 for non-criminal violations such as loitering and disorderly conduct. Under state law, children younger than 16 can only be taken into custody without a warrant if they have committed a crime, not a violation. But the incidents mentioned earlier about the four-year-olds at a Bronx public school and the five-year-old Queens kindergartner only highlight how soon children can be at risk of over-policing in schools.

In response to the excesses of school policing in New York City, the NYCLU has convened a Student Safety Coalition to address the school-to-prison pipeline in that city and promote solutions. Children’s Defense Fund–New York is an active member of this coalition and is working with others to promote positive approaches to school safety and discipline. We are also collaborating with the NYCLU and a group of other organizations on the School to Prison Pipeline Mapping for Action Project, whose goal is to map out current policies that push children out of school and into the juvenile justice and adult criminal justice system, so that changes can be made to stop them. It’s an important step, and the problem certainly doesn’t begin or end with New York City. At-risk schools in New York and across the country deserve to be flooded with resources and support instead of police. And students at those schools need to be applauded and encouraged for being at school and wanting to learn, not made to feel as if they are criminals just for trying to go to class. It is time to treat children as children and not as criminals - especially at very early ages.

Related story:

NYPD on Track to Interrogate Record Number of Innocent New Yorkers in 2009,
New Stop-and-Frisk Numbers Show


* The First Quarter Stop-and-Frisk Report (2009) (1.43 MB)
* The Second Quarter Stop-and-Frisk Report (2009) (1.42 MB)
* The Third Quarter Stop-and-Frisk Report (2009) (1.93 MB)

Related Publications:

* Palm Card: What to Do If You're Stopped by the Police (English and Spanish) (2004)

November 19, 2009 — The NYPD is on track to stop and interrogate a record number of totally innocent New Yorkers in 2009, according to police reports obtained and analyzed by the New York Civil Liberties Union this week. During the first nine months of 2009, police made more than 404,000 stops of completely innocent New Yorkers – the overwhelming majority of whom were black and Latino. If stops continue at this pace, 535,000 completely innocent New Yorkers will suffer through street interrogations in 2009 – the most ever since the Department began collecting data on its troubling stop-and-frisk program.

“A practice that wastes an officer’s valuable time with a 90 percent fail rate – while at the same time humiliating hundreds of thousands of black and brown New Yorkers – is not a wise or effective policing technique,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “It is a stunning abuse of power. It is not a crime to walk down the street in New York City, yet every day innocent black and brown New Yorkers are turned into suspects for doing just that.”

The NYPD stopped and interrogated New Yorkers 137,894 times between July and September. Nearly nine out of 10 of these stops resulted in no charges or citations. This record number of stops fell disproportionately on the city’s communities of color – 77,308 of those stopped were black and 41,103 of those stopped were Latino, while only 12,398 were white.

Between April and June, police stopped and interrogated New Yorkers 140,552 times. The Department made another 171,094 stops between January and March. Overall, this record number of stops represents a 15 percent increase from the stops conducted during the first nine months of 2008. If stops continue at this pace, the NYPD will conduct a record 610,000 stops in 2009. In 2008, the current record, police stopped New Yorkers 531,159 times.

The Department is then recording the name and home address of every person stopped – including the millions of completely innocent New Yorkers who have been stopped over the years.

“The NYPD is building a massive database of black and brown New Yorkers,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn. “Innocent New Yorkers who are the victims of unjustified police stops should not suffer the further harm of having their personal information kept in an NYPD database, which simply makes them targets for future investigations.”

The NYCLU has for years been advocating against the Department’s excessive use of street interrogations and has been fighting for details of the program to be released to the public for debate. In the summer of 2007, the NYCLU served the NYPD with a formal legal request to turn over the complete stop-and-frisk database under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. The Department resisted transparency and so, in November 2007, the NYCLU filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court challenging the NYPD. In May of 2008, the NYCLU won that case and received the database.

The NYCLU requested the information to allow for an independent analysis of the Department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which have been the subject of enormous controversy since the 1999 shooting death of Amadou Diallo.

The NYCLU’s concerns about excessive numbers of stops are supported by the RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Department in 2007. That report estimated that, “[e]ven with the most liberal assumptions,” one would expect the NYPD to have “roughly 250,000 to 330,000 stops” each year. Even when measured against the most permissive of standards, the NYPD is on its way to conducting 300,000 more stops than would be expected.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New York's Shield Law

I. Introduction: History & Background

The New York reporters privilege, codified in Civil Rights Law § 79-h (the "Shield Law"), provides broad protection to reporters and publishers. As originally enacted, the statute only applied to materials or information given in confidence to the reporter. However, various amendments, some in response to judicial decisions, expanded the statute so that it now protects both confidential and nonconfidential information from disclosure.

The New York Shield Law is an outgrowth of the state's long history of protecting the freedom of the press and of providing "one of the most hospitable climates for the free exchange of ideas." In re Beach v. Shanley, 62 N.Y.2d 241, 255, 476 N.Y.S.2d 765,733 (1984) (Wachtler, J., concurring). According to one judge, the first New York case in which a reporter refused to reveal his sources dates back to 1735, when John Peter Zenger was prosecuted for publishing articles critical of the New York colonial governor. The case resulted in an acquittal. Id. Since that time, and particularly with the growth of the publishing industry in New York in the 19th century, the privilege has been expanded to the point that it provides "broadest possible protection" to the press.

Both Article I, § 8 of the New York State Constitution and New York Civil Rights Law § 79-h provide an absolute privilege from forced disclosure of materials obtained or received in confidence by a professional journalist or newscaster, including the identity of source. Beach, 62 N.Y.2d 241 (applying absolute privilege against disclosing a confidential source even though the disclosure of the materials to the reporter may itself have been a crime). The privilege applies in both criminal and civil contexts and to information passively received by a reporter.

As a result of a 1981 amendment to the Shield Law, the term "professional journalist" was expanded to include not only those working for traditional news media (newspapers, magazines, and broadcast media), but those working for any "professional medium or agency which has as one of its regular functions the processing and researching of news intended for dissemination to the public," as well. Civil Rights Law § 79-h (a) (6).

In 1988, the New York Court of Appeals, in O'Neill v. Oakgrove Construction, Inc., 71 N.Y.2d 521, 528 N.Y.S.2d 1 (1988), held that both the New York State Constitution and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provide a qualified privilege from the forced disclosure of nonconfidential materials. This privilege may only be overcome by a clear and specific showing by the party seeking disclosure that the materials sought are: (a) highly material and relevant to the action; (b) critical or necessary to the maintenance of a party's claim or defense; and (c) not obtainable from any alternative source. In 1990, Civil Rights Law § 79-h was, in the wake of O'Neill, amended to incorporate this three-part test for nonconfidential news.

The Shield Law represents a formidable barrier to those who seek to compel the disclosure of information obtained by reporters in the course of their newsgathering activities. The O'Neill court, citing to the New York State Constitution and the State's early recognition of a constitutionally guaranteed free press, noted that this barrier is deliberately high:

The ability of the press freely to collect and edit news, unhampered by repeated demands for its resource materials, requires more protection than that afforded by the [CPLR]. The autonomy of the press would be jeopardized if resort to its resource materials by litigants seeking to utilize the newsgathering efforts of journalists for their private purposes were routinely permitted. Moreover, because journalists typically gather information about accidents, crimes, and other matters of special interest that often give rise to litigation, attempts to obtain evidence by subjecting the press to discovery as a nonparty would be widespread if not restricted. The practical burdens on time and resources, as well as the consequent diversion of journalistic effort and disruption of newsgathering activity, would be particularly inimical to the vigor of a free press.

O'Neill, 71 N.Y.2d at 526-27 (quashing subpoena seeking nonconfidential photographs) (citations omitted). New York courts thus afford the broadest possible protection to those engaged in "'the sensitive role of gathering and disseminating news of public events,'" and they do not hesitate to quash subpoenas issued to reporters in both criminal and civil actions. Id. at 529 (quoting In Re Beach v. Shanley, 62 N.Y.2d at 256).

There are limits to the protection afforded by New York's Shield Law, however, and, as discussed below, recent decisions indicate that some courts may be more willing to order reporters' materials produced in cases where a criminal defendant's Sixth Amendment rights are at stake.

Special thanks to Elisa Krall, who is a student at the New York University School of Law (class of '04) and a summer associate at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, for her substantial and untiring assistance in researching and drafting the New York section of this compendium.

From Reporters For Freedom of the Press:

II. Authority for and source of the right

A. Shield law statute

New York Civil Rights Law § 79-h. Special provisions relating to persons employed by, or connected with, news media.

(a)Definitions. As used in this section, the following definitions shall apply:

(1) "Newspaper" shall mean a publication that is printed and distributed ordinarily not less frequently than once a week, and has done so for at least one year, and that contains news, articles of opinion (as editorials), features, advertising or other matter regarded as of current interest, has a paid circulation and has been entered in the United States post office as second-class matter.

(2) "Magazine" shall mean a publication containing news which is published and distributed periodically, and has done so for at least one year, has a paid circulation and has been entered in the United States post-office as second-class matter.

(3) "News agency" shall mean a commercial organization that collects and supplies news to subscribing newspapers, magazines, periodicals and news broadcasters.

(4) "Press association" shall mean an association of newspapers and/or magazines formed to gather and distributed news to its members.

(5) "Wire service" shall mean a news agency that sends out syndicated news copy by wire to subscribing newspapers, magazines, periodicals or news broadcasters.

(6) "Professional journalist" shall mean one who, for gain or livelihood, is engaged in gathering, preparing, collecting, writing, editing, filming, taping or photographing of news intended for a newspaper, magazine, news agency, press association or wire service or other professional medium which has as one of its regular functions the processing and researching of news intended for dissemination to the public; such person shall be someone performing said function either as a regular employee or as one otherwise professionally affiliated for gain or livelihood with such medium of communication.

(7) "Newscaster" shall mean a person who, for gain or livelihood, is engaged in analyzing, commenting on or broadcasting, news by radio or television transmission.

(8) "News" shall mean written, oral, pictorial, photographic, or electronically recorded information or communication concerning local, national or worldwide events or other matters of public concern or public interest or affecting the public welfare.

(b) Exemption of professional journalists and newscasters from contempt: Absolute protection for confidential news. Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or specific law to the contrary, no professional journalist or newscaster presently or having previously been employed or otherwise associated with any newspaper, magazine, news agency, press association, wire service, radio or television transmission station or network or other professional medium of communicating news or information to the public shall be adjudged in contempt by any court in connection with any civil or criminal proceeding, or by the legislature or other body having contempt powers, nor shall a grand jury seek to have a journalist or newscaster held in contempt by any court, legislature or other body having contempt powers for refusing or failing to disclose news obtained or received in confidence or the identity of the source of such news coming into such person's possession in the course of gathering or obtaining news for publication or to be published in a newspaper, magazine, or for broadcast by a radio or television transmission station or network or for public dissemination by any other professional medium or agency which has as one of its main functions the dissemination of news to the public, by which such person is professionally employed or otherwise associated in a news gathering capacity notwithstanding that the material or identity of a source of such material or related material gathered by a person described above performing a function described above is or is not highly relevant to a particular inquiry of government and notwithstanding that the information was not solicited by the journalist or newscaster prior to disclosure to such person.

(c) Exemption of professional journalists and newscasters from contempt: Qualified protection for nonconfidential news. Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or specific law to the contrary, no professional journalist or newscaster presently or having previously been employed or otherwise associated with any newspaper, magazine, news agency, press association, wire service, radio or television transmission station or network or other professional medium of communicating news to the public shall be adjudged in contempt by any court in connection with any civil or criminal proceeding, or by the legislature or other body having contempt powers, nor shall a grand jury seek to have a journalist or newscaster held in contempt by any court, legislature or other body having contempt powers for refusing or failing to disclose any unpublished news obtained or prepared by a journalist or newscaster in the course of gathering or obtaining news as provided in subdivision (b) of this section, or the source of any such news, where such news was not obtained or received in confidence, unless the party seeking such news has made a clear and specific showing that the news: (i) is highly material and relevant; (ii) is critical or necessary to the maintenance of a party's claim, defense or proof of an issue material thereto; and (iii) is not obtainable from any alternative source. A court shall order disclosure only of such portion, or portions, of the news sought as to which the above-described showing has been made and shall support such order with clear and specific findings made after a hearing. The provisions of this subdivision shall not affect the availability, under appropriate circumstances, of sanctions under section thirty-one hundred twenty-six of the civil practice law and rules.

(d) Any information obtained in violation of the provisions of this section shall be inadmissible in any action or proceeding or hearing before any agency.

(e) No fine or imprisonment may be imposed against a person for any refusal to disclose information privileged by the provisions of this section.

(f) The privilege contained within this section shall apply to supervisory or employer third person or organization having authority over the person described in this section.

(g) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, a person entitled to claim the exemption provided under subdivision (b) or (c) of this section waives such exemption if such person voluntarily discloses or consents to the disclosure of the specific information sought to be disclosed to any person not otherwise entitled to claim the exemptions provided by this section.

Legislative History

The bill (L. 1970, c. 615, § 2) containing what became Civil Rights Law § 79-h was signed into law, effective May 12, 1970, by Governor Rockefeller. Several news publishers, broadcasters and other media organizations expressed support for the bill, including the State Reporters Association, the Association of Managing Editors, the New York Society of Newspaper Editors, the American Newspaper Publishers Association, and the Magazine Publishers Association. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS) submitted perhaps the most detailed comments in favor of the bill, which included its amicus brief in In the Matter of Caldwell, 311 F.Supp. 358 (N.D. Ca. 1970), a California case decided in April 1970. CBS's amicus brief included affidavits from such luminaries as Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, and Dan Rather. At the time, several of the bill's supporters expressed the concern that the bill was not broad enough and that reporters' resource materials, in addition to the identities of confidential sources, should be protected.

While the New York Attorney General, Louis J. Lefkowitz, had no objections to the bill, the New York Civil Liberties Union opposed it, citing its concern that a blanket privilege could "lead to instances in which the reporter, if for no other reason than his own convenience, can defeat a public or private right of access to due process." Governor's Bill Jacket, L 1970, ch. 615, p. 10.

In his memorandum approving the bill, Governor Rockefeller stated:

This "Freedom of Information Bill for Newsman" will make New York State -- the Nation's principal center of news gathering and dissemination -- the only state that clearly protects the public's right to know and the First Amendment rights of all legitimate newspapermen, reporters and television and radio broadcasters."

The bill protects journalists and newscasters from charges of contempt in any proceeding brought under State law for refusing or failing to disclose information or sources of information obtained in the course of gathering news for publication.


Freedom of the press is one of the foundations upon which our form of government is based. A representative democracy, such as ours, cannot exist unless there is a free press both willing and able to keep the public informed of all the news.

The threat to a newsman of being charged with contempt and of being imprisoned for failing to disclose his information or its sources can significantly reduce his ability to gather vital information. That this real and imminent threat has been demonstrated by the statements of several prominent reporters that valuable sources of information have been cut off because of recent attempts by the Federal government to require the disclosure of information obtained by reporters in confidence.


At the present time, fifteen states have enacted legislation extending the testimonial privilege to newsmen. This measure affords a stronger safeguard of the free channels of news communication than most existing legislation, by protecting newsmen from being compelled to disclose the information they gather, as well as the identity of their informants.

Memorandum of Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, Governor's Bill Jacket, L 1970, ch. 615, p. 91-92.

As originally enacted in 1970, the Shield Law only protected from disclosure information obtained by a professional journalist "under the cloak of confidentiality," and it only applied to professional journalists employed by traditional media outlets, such as newspapers, magazines and broadcast media. In addition, the original statute made no mention whether grand juries were included among the "other bodies" precluded from using their contempt powers against journalists. In 1975, Civil Rights Law § 79-h was, with the support of the New York Attorney General, the New York Civil Liberties Union (reversing its former position) and others, amended to make clear that the statute prohibited grand juries from seeking to hold reporters in contempt for failing to disclose information obtained in confidence.

The 1981 Amendment

In 1981, the statute was again amended in response to judicial decisions that, in the words of one of the sponsors of the bill containing the amendments, failed "to follow the letter or even the spirit of the existing law." Memorandum of Assemblyman Steven Sanders, Governor's Bill Jacket, L 1981, ch. 468, p. 1 ("Sanders Memorandum"). This was an apparent reference to the decision in People v. LeGrand, 67 A.D.2d 446, 415 N.Y.S.2d 252 (2d Dep't 1979), in which a criminal defendant succeeded in obtaining the notes of an author who was writing an investigative book on a notorious crime family to be published by a subsidiary of Harper & Row, Inc. The LeGrand court reasoned that the Shield Law did not extend to "authors," despite the fact that the writer in question previously worked for national and local broadcasters and had written, produced and directed numerous documentary films and news broadcasts. Id. at 448. See Sanders Memorandum at 2 ("But the highly absurd situation of Mr. Smith who writes news stories for the New York Times being covered while that same Mr. Smith six months later leaving the Times and beginning work on an investigative book of non-fiction intended for sale to a Harper & Row is not covered, is corrected in this bill. Thus the new bill will protect the journalistic process wherever that process is being professionally undertaken.")

The purpose of the amendment was to fill the "gaps and loopholes not perceived and not intended in the original legislation, such inadequacies that have allowed the courts to pierce the Shield Law time after time, leaving it in a state of legal impotency, with defense attorneys engaging in frequent and increasingly popular fishing expeditions for reporters' notes, and with judges becoming ever more creative in finding limitless reasons to violate the statute and ignore the intent of the Legislature in its 1970 adoption of 79-h." Sanders Memorandum at 1. This amendment to the Shield Law, however, was not without its detractors. Despite some opposition, the bill was passed and signed into law.

The 1981 amendment broadened the definitions of the terms "news" and "professional journalist" in the statute, so that all persons "professionally engaged in a journalistic capacity" could claim its protection, including freelance journalists. Sanders Memorandum at 2. Accordingly, as of 1981, the Shield Law protects traditional, mainstream journalists and media entities, as well as those working for any "other professional medium which has as one of its regular functions the processing and researching of news intended for dissemination to the public." Civil Rights Law § 79-h(a)(6), (b), (c).

The 1990 Amendment

In 1988, the New York Court of Appeals recognized a constitutional privilege, under both Article I, § 8 of the New York State Constitution and under the First Amendment, for nonconfidential information gathered by reporters. See O'Neill, 71 N.Y.2d 521 (privilege extends to nonconfidential photographs sought in a civil action). The decision in O'Neill, however, left open the question whether the qualified privilege would apply in the criminal context, and it came less than a year after the same court held that the Shield Law, as then written, did not protect from disclosure to a grand jury nonconfidential outtakes of an interview conducted of a suspect in a homicide investigation. Knight-Ridder Broadcasting, Inc. v. Greenberg, 70 N.Y.2d 151, 518 N.Y.S.2d 595 (1987). See People v. Korkala, 99 A.D.2d 161, 472 N.Y.S.2d 310 (1st Dep't 1984) (nonconfidential outtakes ordered produced for in camera inspection).

In the wake of O'Neill and Knight-Ridder, the Legislature again amended Civil Rights Law § 79-h (effective November 1, 1990) to settle conflicting interpretations of the Shield Law. The 1990 amendment extended the qualified privilege to nonconfidential information obtained by reporters in the course of newsgathering and made clear that the privilege applies in both criminal and civil proceedings. The amendment codified the three-part test enunciated in O'Neill, which provides that the qualified privilege can only be overcome by a "clear and specific" showing by the party seeking to discover a reporter's resource materials that the materials sought are: (a) highly material and relevant; (b) critical or necessary to the maintenance of a party's claim or defense; and (c) not obtainable from any alternative source.

Other changes to Civil Rights Law § 79-h included provisions requiring that an order overcoming the qualified privilege could be no broader than necessary, and the order must be supported by clear and specific findings made after a hearing. Civil Rights Law §79-h (c). In addition, subsection (g) was also added to the statute, which provides that the privilege for both confidential and nonconfidential information may be waived by voluntary disclosure to a non-journalist of the specific information sought.

While the media supported the 1990 amendments, the New York Defenders Association, Inc. opposed extending the qualified privilege to nonconfidential news on the grounds that it conflicted with criminal defendants' Sixth Amendment rights and gave the press alone the power to decide whether and when to disclose information relevant to prosecutors and criminal defendants. Governor's Bill Jacket, L 1990, ch. 33 (pages not numbered). In order to address these concerns, the Defenders Association proposed that the privilege be limited to civil proceedings only, a position advocated by state Senator Gold and others in the floor debates over the bill. New York State Senate Debates, 1990, ch. 33 at p. 1834-35, 1849-50. However, Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law on March 23, 1990, stating:

Significantly, this qualified privilege will apply in both civil and criminal cases. Indeed, the need for protection of nonconfidential information and sources is especially strong in criminal cases where journalists are all too often drawn into the criminal justice system merely because they have reported on a crime.

In applying this standard to criminal proceedings, the bill does not override the right to a fair trial guaranteed to defendants in criminal proceedings by the United States and New York State Constitution. To the contrary, the bill strikes an appropriate balance between the principle of a free press embodied in the First Amendment and a defendant's right to a fair trial.

Memorandum of Governor Mario Cuomo filed with Assembly Bill No. 3226-B, Governor's Bill Jacket, 1990 ch. 33.

Open Letter To President Obama

From Brian D'Agostino, PH.D

November 19, 2009

Dear President Obama,

I taught in New York City colleges and public high schools for fifteen years, have published peer reviewed research, and hold a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University. I voted for you and had high hopes for your education policies, especially when I learned that Linda Darling-Hammond was one of your advisors. She is an educator and knows what she is talking about. I’m sorry you didn’t listen to her, because your administration is now on a collision course with public school teachers and administrators across the country.

There is no more glaring indication of your problem with educators than Arne Duncan’s attack on the staff of so-called failing schools. First, it is not as easy as you may think to identify academic failure. For example, based on standardized test scores, which give a very incomplete and distorted picture of academic performance, New York City schools Chancellor Joel Klein has sought to close certain schools that the parents want to keep open. Secondly, even if all agree that a school is failing, it is not always clear that closing the school is the best solution, as education professor Pedro Noguera (pictured below) has noted.

Third, even if closing a school is the right decision, it is not reasonable and just to fire the entire staff. Mr. President, if soldiers have fought a battle against all odds and lose the battle, do you discharge them from the military when they return? If fire fighters plunge into a burning building to save lives and stop the fire, do you dismiss them from their jobs if they don’t succeed? If a doctor treats a person who is in critical condition and the person dies, do you drum the doctor out of the medical profession? I don’t imagine you would answer “yes” to any of these questions. In that case, please tell your Education Secretary to stop attacking teachers who find themselves in failing schools.

President Obama, you and Mr. Duncan are not educators and apparently do not grasp how demoralizing and counterproductive your “Race to the Top” policies will be for students, teachers, and administrators. Using standardized tests as the primary method of assessing academic performance creates powerful incentives for “teaching to the test.” Instead of getting students excited about academic work and responding to their individual learning needs, teachers will be pressured to focus on test preparation, which can only produce mindless conformity and a life-long aversion to study.

These predictable outcomes are precisely the opposite of what the country needs from public education. One authoritative 2007 report, Tough Choices or Tough Times, calls for schools that can teach creativity and “out of the box” thinking in order to meet the competitive economic challenges of the 21st century. By contrast, you are now pushing states down the path of standardized test driven instruction and teacher evaluation, which will turn our schools into soul-less factories for producing standardized minds. This will imperil not only economic competitiveness but the critical thinking skills needed to preserve freedom and democracy from the threat of authoritarian rule.

It didn’t have to be this way. Instead of micromanaging how the states spend federal education money, you could have mandated instead that schools themselves develop and implement their own innovation plans. Besides need, there should be only two requirements for a school to receive federal education money. First, require each school to identify its core values, produce a mission statement addressing the aims of education in the twenty-first century, and produce an innovation plan addressing how the school will work to achieve its aims. Second, require every school to demonstrate that their mission statement and innovation plan were generated through an open dialogue and collaboration involving all their immediate stakeholders including parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community leaders.

A bottom-up approach such as this would tap the energies, intelligence and creativity of our schools’ stakeholders and give them ownership of the process, which is essential for reform to succeed. Some schools would produce a vision of reform that matches yours. But instead of imposing it on the schools, you would be empowering the stakeholders to create and enact their own visions. Other schools may take different approaches, and we should all welcome such diversity.

Here is my approach to school innovation. My core values include competence, creativity, individual responsibility, and teamwork. I would like to see a system of teacher evaluation that includes video portfolios, peer observation, and feedback from students. My school should be committed to science, the arts, and social studies, not only to math and literacy. It should offer nutrition, physical fitness, and other programs of proven effectiveness for building heath and achieving optimal brain function. And finally, my school should eliminate unproductive bureaucracy, supervision, and paperwork to help pay for all of the above.

Mr. President, it is not too late to listen to the teachers and other stakeholders in our nation’s schools. I respectfully urge you to do so.


Brian D’Agostino, Ph.D
New York, NY

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In Support of Teacher Tenure

Good Reasons to Save Teacher Tenure
By Michael E. Kramer
General Counsel, Georgia Association of Educators

Of the 50 states in the United States, 49 have some form of teacher tenure, or "fair dismissal laws" protecting teachers from arbitrary firings. Most of these states clearly outrank Georgia on student testing and achievement in multiple categories. These states have no problem outshining Georgia on educational measures while also requiring administrators to justify the firing of public schoolteachers. Clearly, tenure laws are not holding back other states from achieving education reform or student progress and achievement. (In fact, Mississippi is the only state that has no statutory protections providing a due process hearing for teachers. Mississippi ranks lowest in most educational measures.)

How can anyone object to requiring an administrator "to have a good reason" for firing a public schoolteacher? Isn't this simply holding the administrator responsible for sound educational judgment? The Governor's reform legislation is supposed to be about accountability. Georgia's Fair Dismissal Act provides just such accountability of administrators' competency, both as to evaluating educators and as a safeguard against arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, political, or retaliatory firings.

A case in point. Drew Hamernick, a 10-year biology teacher in the Cartersville City Public Schools was terminated last year by his Superintendent for insubordination, willful neglect of duties, and incompetency. Sounds like pretty strong stuff—you'd expect the Superintendent to have real good reasons to support those charges. He didn't. Instead, the Superintendent had his staff assemble student failure rate statistics from Mr. Hamernick's classes and attempt to pass them off as evidence of poor teaching. The only problem was that the statistics were falsely presented at the hearing, and actually supported Mr. Hamernick. The evidence showed that most of the students had also failed at least two or more of their other classes or had exceeded the number of allowable school absences under local board policy (mandating a failing grade). His classes were also filled with students in the non-academic track, for whom biology was also the most difficult subject in their schedule. When Mr. Hamernick taught students in the regular academic track, his pass rates were consistent with all other science teachers in the school system.

Students, parents, and business leaders came to testify on Mr. Hamernick's behalf—particularly testifying that he was a compassionate and effective teacher. One mother cried while testifying to her daughter's first signs of interest in any academic course. The local board of education which heard the case reinstated Mr. Hamernick to his teaching position for this school year. If the Superintendent hadn't had to justify the termination, Cartersville City would have lost a good and productive schoolteacher.

The Fair Dismissal Act actually reduces expensive court litigation. By having a statutory hearing process Georgia minimizes the number of state and federal lawsuits filed in court. Without the Act, teachers will have no other recourse but to go to federal or state court by filing breach of contract, employment discrimination, and First Amendment lawsuits to protect their rights. By providing an administrative hearing, everyone gets a cost-effective, fair and more efficient public airing which resolves most of these claims.

The public and journalists normally support access to government decision-making. Eliminating fair dismissal hearings will end public oversight. After all, if an administrator doesn't have to give any reason, let alone a "good reason" for a teacher firing, the public's inquiries will be met by silence. School administrators' personnel decision-making already takes place behind closed doors, subject to the exemptions under the Georgia Open Meetings Act and the Open Records Act. The fair dismissal hearing of a teacher is often the only public airing and accountability of school-based personnel decisions.

The Georgia Association of Educators supports ridding classrooms of incompetent teachers. GAE supports peer review, site-based decision-making, and a stronger evaluation process---which will help accomplish that goal and raise Georgia's educational accomplishments. The Governor failed to incorporate peer-review into his reform legislation.

Governor Barnes' strengthening of evaluations and accountability for low-performing schools will place all educators under a stronger magnifying glass. GAE supports a rigorous evaluation process. However, administrators in low-performing schools will be more likely to dismiss teachers just for the sake of showing they're taking action. You can bet that any teacher critical of the administrator's competence and leadership will be among the first to go. By eliminating fair dismissal protections the Governor will just empower unjust administrators to abuse their authority for the sake of their own protection.

Georgia has had fair dismissal since 1975, over 25 years. The first fair dismissal law was enacted in the United States 75 years ago. Of course, the last 75 years has seen the United States become the leading economic, political, and military power in the world. While educational systems can and should be constantly improved, its disingenuous to suggest that tenure has held education back.

It is relatively easy to fire a teacher, even for mediocrity, contrary to misrepresentations by some legislators and journalists of this fact. The Fair Dismissal Act provides minimum due process protections: the teacher can be fired for "any good and sufficient cause;" the hearing is held before the teacher's employer (the local school board decides the outcome); the decision is always upheld on appeal if there is "any evidence" in the record to support it; and decisions are therefore rarely reversed. In my experience, fewer than 100 teacher dismissal hearings are held per year statewide. Many more teachers with tenure elect to resign without invoking their right to a hearing because of the evidence against them. Of the 40 or so teacher dismissals that are appealed each year, over 90% are upheld. If an administrator is doing his or her job, and has a "good reason," then it is relatively easy under these rules to fire any teacher. This is a small price to pay for a fair hearing, and for protections that hold the line against arbitrary, political, and unfair firings.

Does the Fair Dismissal Act make it impossible to fire an incompetent or even a mediocre teacher? Of course not. All an administrator has to do is evaluate and document teacher performance. This isn't brain surgery. School systems have three full years—540 classroom instructional days--in which to observe and judge a teacher before granting hearing rights. If a school administrator can't figure out in 3 years whether a teacher is going to make a contribution to student progress and achievement, then maybe it's the administrator who should be held accountable. Thereafter, if an administrator doesn't have the competence or integrity to build a case against a teacher who ought to be fired, then perhaps the administrator should be fired.

Fair dismissal is not about protecting bad teachers. The solution to the problem of the "bad" teacher is not the abolition of a fair hearing for all teachers. The hearing process protects good teachers from arbitrary, retaliatory, political, and discriminatory actions. We should all support that goal.

The Fair Dimissal Act: Ten Mistakes School Systems Make

Appeal Decisions

Georgia Fair Dismissal Act doesn’t apply to school administrators

The Clarke County Board of Education ousted Cedar Shoals High School Principal Tommy Craft without providing a reason for his termination. When board members refused to explain their decision to Craft or the public—citing the school board attorney's advice—Cedar parents like Chris Hale were frustrated. “It's an unfair situation for Dr. Craft and for us as parents —just the not knowing exactly why,” Hale said. Absent any explanation, Craft says politics, not performance, led the school board to let him go. He's even accused two board members of holding a grudge against him for a decision he made two years ago to pass over board member Sidney Anne Waters' son-in-law for an administrative position at the school. According to the school system’s attorney, Terrell Benton, the school board long has refused to comment on personnel decisions. The state Fair Dismissal Act—passed more than 30 years ago—offers some protection to teachers when their contracts aren't renewed. The law gives tenured teachers—typically a teacher who's taught at a school four years or more—the right to appeal or at least request a reason when the school board opts not to renew his or her contract. But changes to the law in 1995 meant most school principals no longer have that right. That doesn't mean school board members can't explain their reasons to fire a principal, Benton said, but he warns them they may expose the school system—and taxpayers—to a lawsuit.

Benton's advice is not uncommon in Georgia, where principals often are shown the door without an explanation. The state legislature removed administrators from the Fair Dismissal Act in 1995, approving a bill sponsored by the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA), an entity that represents all 180 of the state's school districts. Principals are public figures, said GSBA's Angela Palm, and the law protects their privacy and protects taxpayers from lawsuits. But professional organizations like Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL) and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE), each of which represent about 2,500 administrators in the state, see a different perspective. When local school boards aren't required to give a reason, they're rarely willing to explain, said Jim Puckett, GAEL's executive director. “Certainly the board doesn't want to have to defend itself in a lawsuit, so they have to determine the balance between risking going to court or the public relations issue because parents and the community are worried about what's going on. But typically, boards will err on the legal side.” But if school board members don't have to give a reason for firing a principal, maybe they don't have one, PAGE spokesman Tim Callahan said. “The idea of a fair dismissal law is that it protects people who may not always be politically correct or are willing to step on some toes,” Callahan said. “... I don't know if it's made principals more accountable. It's probably made them more gun shy and a little less willing to take risks.”

Source: Athens Banner-Herald, 1/27/08, By Benjamin Price

Georgia State Board Decisions

Former teacher files suit
Claims violation of Fair Dismissal Act


Ashley Payne, a former 9th and 10th grade literature teacher at Apalachee High School, has filed a lawsuit against the Barrow County School District, claiming she was forced to resign against her will and in violation of the Georgia Fair Dismissal Act.

Payne, who had just begun her third year at AHS, said before class began the morning of Aug. 27, Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction Dorann Mansburger asked Payne to meet in her office. There, Payne said, Principal David McGee questioned Payne about the content of Payne’s Facebook page, saying there had been a complaint about her site.
Payne said her Facebook status at the time mentioned an event called "Bitch Bingo," and said McGee told her the parent of one of her students had complained to the superintendent about the word. According to Payne, McGee also had issue with photographs on the page depicting Payne with alcohol.

"My co-worker and I went all over Europe this summer," Payne said. "We went to a Guinness brewery up there (which is terrible and I didn’t drink all of it), and went to Italy and had wine there; we went to the Temple Bar District in Dublin."

She said the trip was not school-related, and the pictures merely showed her holding the beverages, not drinking them or displaying drunken behavior.

According to Payne, McGee told her he had spoken with Superintendent Dr. Ron Saunders, and disciplinary action against her would be taken. She said she assumed they had decided to suspend her.

"They went on to say that if it was just the language or just the picture that would be one thing, but since it was both, there was no way I could win this," Payne said. "I took this to mean there was no way to win my job."

Payne claimed McGee encouraged her to immediately resign, telling her a suspension would only hurt her chances of future employment. She also claimed that Mansburger helped her write a resignation letter, which stated she was leaving for personal reasons.

Those actions, if proven true, may violate the Georgia Fair Dismissal Act. By law, teachers who are suspended can only be put on suspension for 10 days and must be given a hearing. Furthermore, they must be paid until that hearing takes place. Payne said she was never told any of this, and was led to believe she had to make a decision -- to resign or be suspended -- right away.

"I did trust him, and I trusted that he was telling me everything, and that was not the case," Payne said. "I didn’t have time to look at my options or look at the process, or even process in my mind until I got out of that room."

"In a sense, our position is that her principal held a gun to her head and forced her to resign, and in effect he did so under false pretenses," said Richard Storr, one of Payne’s attorneys.

McGee declined to discuss personnel matters, as did Saunders.

"Our school system has a long-standing practice not to discuss personnel issues in the public," Saunders explained. "We just don’t think it’s beneficial to the district, its employees or its former hash these things out in public."

Storr and his associate, Robert Friedman, will soon take Payne’s case before a judge, hoping the judge will order the Barrow County Board of Education to give Payne her hearing. They have petitioned for a writ of mandamus, which a judge can issue when a state entity does not comply with state law.

"We don’t know what the judge is going to do, but we hope he’ll give us a hearing," Friedman said. "We don’t know what the board will do, but we hope they’ll reinstate Ms. Payne."

Friedman went on to say that, no matter the board’s decision on Payne’s employment, the important thing is that she get her hearing.

"We’re not asking that Ashley be automatically reinstated; we just want fairness, what’s called due process," he said. "We would accept whatever decision the board decides."

They are also asking that Payne be paid for the time from her resignation until her eventual hearing.

As she waits for her day in court, Payne said she is convinced she did nothing worthy of punishment.

"It just doesn’t seem inappropriate or unethical to me. I didn’t have a caption that said ‘Ms. Payne thinks all her students should drink this,’" she said. "I don’t promote drinking alcohol to my students and I don’t talk about drinking alcohol with my students, and I never intended for them to see photos of me with alcohol...What matters is how I am as a teacher and what I do [in the classroom.] It just upsets me that the focus on what I do in my classroom has shifted to what I do in my personal life, when that has nothing to do with [my job.]"

At the time, the school district had no policy governing social networking sites – although such a policy is now being discussed by the Board of Education -- and the 2009 Code of Ethics for Educators only prohibits alcohol use during school functions, on school property, or while supervising students. Payne doesn’t believe her actions violated that code of conduct.

"It’s the same thing a student would see if I were having a margarita at Applebee’s and a student walked by and saw me," she said. "There’s nothing unethical about it."

Regarding her use of the word "bitch," Payne said there is stronger language in "Of Mice and Men" and other books she used as part of her literature curriculum.

Payne said she has no idea how a student and parent had access to her Facebook page.

"I’m very sure [my Facebook page] was always set to private, and I wasn’t friends with any of my students. Keeping my personal life personal was very important to me," she said.

The crux of Payne’s case is whether her lawyers can prove the district is in violation of the Fair Dismissal Act, which outlines eight situations that justify suspension or termination of a school employee.

Those eight grounds are incompetency, insubordination, willful negligence of duties, immorality, inciting or encouraging students to violate any law or policy, reducing staff due to loss of students, failure to secure and maintain educational training, and "any other good and sufficient cause."

Additionally, the Fair Dismissal Act states that employees may only be suspended for 10 days and must be given a hearing, and that "the names of the known witnesses and a concise summary of the evidence to be used against him."

Payne said she was never told the name of the student or parent who complained, or told specifically what photo was objectionable.

Friedman said that should the judge deny them a hearing before the Board of Education, the case could be taken to federal court. Payne and her lawyers have not discussed this step.

"We want to take it as it comes, and hopefully get it resolved in the easy part," Storrs said.

The evidenciary hearing before the judge has not yet been scheduled, but Friedman expects to present their case within the month.

Teacher Tenure

Teachers Can Go to BODIES Exhibition For Free

As a thank you for years of support and patronage, BODIES…The Exhibition, one of New York’s leading educational atractions, is thanking teachers by hosting Free Teacher Tuesdays.

Beginning Tuesday December 1st 2009, teachers can explore BODIES…The Exhibition free-of-charge. There they will have the opportunity to see what historically has been accessible only to the medical profession ~19 real human bodies dissected to show various internal systems as well as over 250 individual healthy and diseased organs.

A downloadable, free comprehensive Teacher’s Guides for elementary, middle, high school and post-secondary levels with experiential classroom activities aligned to the National Academic Standards and the State Content Standards for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, is also available.

Teachers must provide proof of employment as a teacher and must attend during normal operational hours, Tuesdays 10am-6pm.

Please let me know if you would like more information.

Lizzie Jenkins
Rogers & Cowan
919 Third Avenue
Floor 18
New York, NY 10022
O: 212.445.8146
F: 212.445.8477

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Power Brain Education Program Gets $400,000 From the NYC BOE

okay, everyone, on this one story led by Yonev Gonen, I may have some reservations to thinking that Dr. Warrington Parker's program needs to be seen as a cult. I was invited to the United Nations last year to view the Power Brain Program and meet Dr. Warrington Parker.

"Ties with a cult" does sound spooky, but I'm reserving my judgment against saying 'absolutely not' to empowering our brains in any positive way, and I am posting this for the reason that David Cantor seems to be listening to the public, for some reason. That's unusual. All apologies to you, David, but it is.

Betsy Combier

'Cult' program in NYC schools
By YOAV GONEN, NY POST, November 9, 2009

Thousands of city public-school students and teachers are participating in a "Brain Education" program run by a group with ties to an alleged cult.

For the past three years, the Department of Education has shelled out nearly $400,000 for 44 schools to participate in the Power Brain Education company's lessons and workshops.

But dozens of former employees of an organization called Dahn Yoga -- whose founder developed the teachings for Brain Education -- said the school program is run by a group that is part of a vast web of interrelated companies conning participants into investing all their time and money in unproven health and healing activities.

The former workers of Dahn Yoga, which operates 130 health centers and two training retreats across the country, filed a federal lawsuit in Arizona in May charging that its activities are abusive and grow increasingly devotional over time to the group's founder and spiritual leader, 57-year-old Seung Huen "Ilchi" Lee.

"If my child was [participating in Power Brain], I would pull them out in about two minutes," said lawyer Terry Brostowin, who settled a wrongful-death suit against Dahn Yoga last year. "I would be very scared."

Brostowin sued Dahn Yoga in 2005 on behalf of the family of Julia Siverls -- a fit, 41-year-old CUNY professor who collapsed and died during an endurance hike at the group's Sedona, Ariz., retreat.

Her family alleged that Siverls had been drugged and forced to hike in desert heat with 40 pounds of rocks in her backpack and with little water.

Another former Dahn employee who alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Lee settled her case against him in 2002.

Although Dahn Yoga officials claim there's no direct link between Lee and the city schools' program, one of Lee's own Web sites describes Power Brain Education as "Ilchi Lee's Brain Education," and he wrote a book called "Power Brain Kids."

This year, Lee visited PS 65 in The Bronx -- which is using the Power Brain program -- and personally taught a lesson to the students.

'LEE' CLUB: Students last week participate in a "Brain Power" exercise, developed from the teachings of controversial guru Seung Huen "Ilchi" Lee.

Foes said the organization reels people in with lovey-dovey, group-building activities before steadily ratcheting up the pressure for more involvement and money.

This includes taking expensive training courses and retreats that cost as much as $10,000 per week to become "Dahn Masters," who help operate the health centers and recruit new members under high-pressure quotas, according to the ex-workers' lawsuit.

One of the former employees says in the lawsuit that coercion was so great that she was sexually assaulted by Lee in 2006.

Joseph Alexander, a vice president at Dahn Yoga, insists that the suit is without merit.

"They just made all these allegations and accusations with nothing to back it up," he said.

Alexander also said there was no business connection between either Lee or Dahn Yoga and Power Brain Education. He said the only relation between the groups was that the school programs were adapted from Lee's Brain Education teachings. "He's treated as the founder of the philosophy, but as far as that business is concerned, he's not involved with it," Alexander said.

Last Thursday, at a Bronx elementary school, a 25-minute demonstration of the Power Brain lesson was full of positive language and activities the kids seemed to enjoy.

Kids were told to say, "I love your Power Brain face," to one another and to rap songs with lyrics like "I love my thalamus."

City Department of Education officials -- who have known about the former employees' lawsuit since late summer -- said principals selected the program on their own and that many felt it had benefits for students.

But they said they are pulling it for now, after The Post inquired about the program and the controversy surrounding Lee.

"There do not appear to be any allegations against the company that offers [the program]," said DOE spokesman David Cantor. "Given the allegations, however, we will discontinue the program until we determine whether it is inappropriate or improper."

Additional reporting by E.J. Kessler

The 5 Steps of Brain Education

Research on Brain Education for Enhanced Learning

'Cult’ program in NYC schools, Posted: Monday November 9, 2009

New York — Thousands of city public-school students and teachers are participating in a “Brain Education” program run by a group with ties to an alleged cult.

For the past three years, the Department of Education has shelled out nearly $400,000for 44 schools to participate in the Power Brain Education company’s lessons and workshops.

But dozens of former employees of an organization called Dahn Yoga — whose founder developed the teachings for Brain Education — said the school program is run by a group that is part of a vast web of interrelated companies conning participants into investing all their time and money in unproven health and healing activities.

Although Dahn Yoga officials claim there’s no direct link between Lee and the city schools’ program, one of Lee’s own Web sites describes Power Brain Education as “Ilchi Lee’s Brain Education,” and he wrote a book called “Power Brain Kids.”

Foes said the organization reels people in with lovey-dovey, group-building activities before steadily ratcheting up the pressure for more involvement and money.

This includes taking expensive training courses and retreats that cost as much as $10,000 per week to become “Dahn Masters,” who help operate the health centers and recruit new members under high-pressure quotas, according to the ex-workers’ lawsuit.

Mountain enlightenment leads to yoga empire

Dahn Yoga stretches into controversy

Yoga Cult?

Critics Compare Dahn Yoga to Cult

Dahn Hak: Rewarding Yoga Or A Korean Cult?

Founder peddles belief in ‘ancient healing’

Brain sensitising

How yoga class got personal

Dahnhak sued after member dies trying to master art

I-Team Investigates Yoga Group Some Call A Cult

“There do not appear to be any allegations against the company that offers [the program],” said DOE spokesman David Cantor. “Given the allegations, however, we will discontinue the program until we determine whether it is inappropriate or improper.”

Freedom of Mind

Research on Brain Education for Enhanced Learning

Studies of Brain Education for Enhanced Learning have found that the program promotes behavioral, emotional, and cognitive improvements, including positive effects on learning efficiency, multiple intelligences, emotional intelligence, and stress coping strategies. Following are summaries of three studies that used a control-group design.

Learning efficiency. Twenty students at fifth grade level participated in a pilot Brain Education program twice weekly for twelve weeks. After completion of the program, they displayed significant improvements in five out of twelve tests of learning efficiency, including concentration, learning strategy, learning acceptability, self-control strategy, and emotional control strategy, as well as a global score of learning efficiency. In contrast, a control group of twenty students did not show improvements in any of these measures. (Oh et al. Effect of a brain respiration program on learning efficiency for elementary school age children. Korean Journal of Educational Research. 2004; 6: 42 (2): 511-42.)

Multiple intelligences. Forty pre-schoolers (age 5) participated in a Brain Education program for thirty minutes daily, for five months. Compared to a control group of 40 children, the children in the Brain Education program showed significant improvements in six of eight different intelligences tested, including linguistic, logical-mathematical, body-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligence. (Kwak Yun-jung and Jo Tae-im, Effects of a brain development program on multiple intelligences. Journal of Brain Education. 2006; 12 (1): 1.)

Emotional intelligence and stress coping strategies. Twenty-seven fifth grade students received the Brain Education curriculum once weekly, during their homeroom period, for thirty-five weeks. Compared to a control group of 25 students who practiced writing Chinese characters, children in the Brain Education group demonstrated greater emotional intelligence (for example emotional perception, expression, and control). Children also reported less stress and showed a preference for active stress coping strategies, compared to children in the control group. (Oh et al. Effectiveness of a brain-based health curriculum on children’s emotional intelligence, stress, and stress-coping strategies. Manuscript under review.)

BE Impact on Multiple Intelligences

Former Dahn Masters File Mass Law Suit
May 29th, 2009 -

This is a law suit filed on May 20th 2009 by numerous former Dahn masters.

It is the most ambitious lawsuit of its kind by multiple victims who are seeking financial compensation in order to address the heavy debt that they have incurred by their membership in Ilchi Lee’s organization.

One woman alleges that she was raped by Ilchi Lee in Korea.

There have been several other women who have also alleged to have been raped by Lee.

Lawsuit: PDF

Protest Over Firing of 600 School Aides Tuesday, November 17 8AM



ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

P.A. PRESIDENT AT (917) 406-1091 AND OR E-MAIL

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Workplace Fairness: Filing a Discrimination Claim

Legal Encyclopedia - Employment Discrimination

Your Rights Filing a Discrimination Claim - New York

I am not an Attorney, and I don't give legal advice. The information below is already posted on an excellent site called Workplace Fairness, and I have posted the section on Discrimination as a resource.

Betsy Combier

Workplace Rights: Discrimination

1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in New York?

New York state law N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 292, 296 makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, age (over 18), marital status, disability, sexual orientation or prior arrest or conviction record. The law also makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a genetic predisposition or carrier status.

New York state law also provides broader protection for disabled employees than the similar federal statute, the Americans with Disabilities Act, because it defines disability more broadly, potentially including such conditions as obesity and stress-related illness within the definition of disability.

The New York City Human Rights Law, which applies only to those who live in New York City, makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of actual or perceived race, creed, color, age, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, gender (including sexual harassment), sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability (including HIV/AIDS), status as victim of domestic violence, arrest or conviction record, marital status and retaliation.

New York city law also defines disability more broadly than federal law. The Human Rights Law defines disability as “any physical, medical, mental or psychological impairment, or a history or record of an impairment.”

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in New York?

In New York, a discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the New York Division of Human Rights (DHR) or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you live in New York City, you can also file a discrimination claim with the New York City Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The agencies have what is called a “work-sharing agreement,” which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with each agency is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to “cross-file” the claim with the other agencies. If you live in New York City and have an age discrimination claim, you should not file with CHR, as it does not have a work-sharing agreement for age discrimination claims.

The New York state and city anti-discrimination statutes cover some smaller employers not covered by federal law. Therefore, if your workplace has between 4 and 14 employees, you should file with the CHR (if you live in New York City) or DHR, as the EEOC enforces federal law, which covers only employers with 15 or more employees; otherwise, as explained below, you should file with the EEOC.

Filing with the CHR or DHR is not required to pursue a discrimination claim directly in court, but if you do not have an attorney, you may wish to see whether the CHR or DHR can assist you in resolving your claim without filing in court. CHR or DHR complaints must be filed within one year of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

Some attorneys recommend, however, that you do not file with the CHR or DHR (unless your workplace has fewer than 15 employees or you are not otherwise covered by federal law) because you cannot further pursue your state claim in court if you file with CHR or DHR, unless your case is dismissed for reasons of “administrative convenience.” (This is called an “election of remedies.” Filing with the EEOC first and cross-filing with the DHR or CHR is not considered an election of remedies, and does not prevent you from further pursuing your state claim.) If you wish to consult an attorney about taking your case, you should do so as early as possible, so that you do not miss your one-year filing deadline in the event you need the CHR or DHR's assistance.

To file a claim with the CHR, if you live in New York City, contact their local office. More information about filing a claim with the CHR can be found at

New York City Commission on Human Rights
40 Rector Street
New York, NY 10006
Phone: (212) 306-7500
Discrimination Complaint Hotline: (212) 306-7450.
(An automated voicemail system responds to callers in English and Spanish.)

To file a claim with the DHR, contact the nearest office below. More information about filing a claim with the DHR can be found at

One Fordham Plaza, 4th Floor
Bronx, New York 10458
Phone: (718) 741-8400

Albany Regional Office
Empire State Plaza, Agency Building #2, 18th Floor
Albany, New York 12220
Phone: (518) 474-2705

44 Hawley Street, Room 603
Binghamton, New York 13901
Phone: (607) 721-8467

55 Hanson Place, Room 304
Brooklyn, New York 11217
Phone: (718) 722-2856

The Walter J. Mahoney State Office Building
65 Court Street, Suite 506
Buffalo, New York 14202
Phone: (716) 847-7632

Long Island
175 Fulton Avenue
Hempstead, New York 11550
Phone: (516) 538-1360

State Office Building, Veterans Memorial Building
Hauppauge, New York 11787
Phone: (516) 952-6434 Manhattan
20 Exchange Place, 2nd Floor
New York, New York 10005
Phone: (212) 480-2522

Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building
163 West 125th Street, 4th Floor
New York, New York 10027
Phone: (212) 961-8650

One Monroe Square, 259 Monroe Avenue, 3rd Floor
Rochester, New York 14607
Phone: (585) 238-8250

333 E. Washington Street, Room 401
Syracuse, New York 13202
Phone: (315) 428-4633

White Plains
30 Glenn Street, 3rd Floor
White Plains, New York 10603
Phone: (914) 949-4394

To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your local EEOC office below. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Buffalo Local Office
6 Fountain Plaza
Suite 350
Buffalo, NY 14202
Phone: (716) 551-4441
TTY: (716) 551-5923

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
New York District Office
33 Whitehall St.
New York, NY 10004
Phone: (212) 336-3620
TTY: (212) 336-3622

3. What are my time deadlines?

If you choose to file a discrimination claim with one of these administrative agencies, do not delay in contacting the CHR (if you live in New York City), DHR or EEOC to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. In order for CHR or DHR to act on your behalf, you must file with the CHR or DHR (or cross-file with the EEOC) within one year or with the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. But if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, however, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your discrimination claim with the state and federal administrative agencies.

If you live outside New York City, you may also wish to check with your city or county to see if you live and/or work in a city or county with a local anti-discrimination law, or “ordinance.” Some cities and counties in New York (in addition to New York City) have agencies that process claims under local ordinances and may be able to assist you. These agencies are often called the “Human Rights Commission,” “Human Relations Commission,” or the “Civil Rights Commission.” Check your local telephone directory or government website for further information.

4. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in New York?

If your case is successfully resolved by an administrative agency, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit (to resolve your case, you probably will be required as to sign a release of your legal claims). If your case is not resolved by the CHR, DHR or EEOC and you want to continue to pursue the matter, you will need to pursue your claim in court. (Please note that once you file with CHR or DHR, you are not allowed to go to court under state law, unless your case is dismissed for “administrative convenience” reasons. The remedies that can be awarded by CHR and DHR are more limited than those under federal law.)

A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court without first going to the EEOC, as discussed above, and having the EEOC dismiss your claim. This process is called “exhaustion” of your administrative remedy. Exhaustion is not required to proceed with your discrimination claim under state or city law.

New York state law does not limit or cap the compensatory (emotional pain and suffering) damages that are capped under federal law, but does not permit the punitive damages (damages intended to punish the employer) and attorneys' fees recoverable for a discrimination claim that are allowed under federal law. Therefore, many New York attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court using federal and state law. However, most cases may be brought in either state or federal court. A case filed in state court using federal law may be “removed” to federal court by the employer because it involves a federal statute, such as Title VII or the ADEA.

New York city law does not not limit or cap the compensatory (emotional pain and suffering) damages that are capped under federal law, and also does not limit or cap the punitive damages (damages intended to punish the employer) and attorneys' fees recoverable for a discrimination claim. Therefore, for workers living in New York City, many New York attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court using federal, state and city law. However, most cases may be brought in either state or federal court. A case filed in state court using federal law may be “removed” to federal court by the employer because it involves a federal statute, such as Title VII or the ADEA.

The EEOC must first issue the document known as “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” or “Notice of Right to Sue” (Form 161) before you can file a case based upon your federal claim. A lawsuit based on your federal discrimination claim must be filed in federal or state court within 90 days of the date you receive the notice. (Be sure to mark down that date when you receive the notice.)

A lawsuit based on your state or New York City discrimination claim must be filed within 3 years of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

These deadlines are called the “statute of limitations.” If you have received one of these agency dismissal letters, do not delay consulting with an attorney. If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case.

This page was updated on October 24, 2006

Related Pages

* Do I Need A Lawyer?
* Proving Discrimination
* Filing Claims with Government Agencies
* New York Government Agencies
* Retaliation for a Discrimination Claim

What is District 65?

I have a question. When a teacher is fined after a 3020-a hearing, or makes a settlement, where does this money go?

I have heard that the arbitrators on the panel at 51 Chambers Street - where the hearings both for the Administrative Trials Unit (ATU) and the Teacher Performance Unit (TPU) take place - are still not getting paid, so the thousands of dollars possibly are not going to them.

Then, last week, a teacher read a memo from a NYC BOE Attorney currently at 51 Chambers street, who wrote that the penalty won by the NYCBOE in her case was paid to "District 65".

I would like anyone to email me or send me a note to the address below with any information. All letters will be kept confidential. In fact, send any information at all to the addresses below, with proof, of anyone who works at a school who you have seen doing something wrong, and this may be looked into by people who do that sort of thing:

Betsy Combier
P.O. Box 17
NY., NY 10021

Teachers Are People Too, And This Is Now The Problem

Facebook picture of former Apalachee High School teacher Ashley Payne, while on vacation

I know of at least two teachers in New York City Schools who were removed from their classrooms in the past two years and placed in the "rubber room" for posting something on their facebook pages similar to the teacher who you will read about below, Ashley Payne. And of course, where else but here in New York City would we have the case of David Pakter who was charged with Specification 6: he "made the New York City Board of Education 'look bad'" in the NY Teacher article written about his case and published on March 15, 2007. Spec #6 says: "caused widespread negative publicity and notoriety to the HS of Fashion Industries and the New York City Department of Education in general when his "unprofessional behavior" was referenced in a UFT newspaper". See my article, David Pakter, a NYC Teacher and Whistleblower of the NYC Board of Education's Corrupt Practices, Sues in Federal Court, about his removal from the High School of Art and Design for whistleblowing allegations of racial discrimination by the Principal. Isn't this a little out of control, and shouldn't the New York City Board of Education come up with some rubric for "decency" in public information, before tarnishing a person's career based on personal opinions? One person's views should not be allowed to end a career of a highly regarded professional.

I have posted comments to the story, and I love the last one, from a student of Ashley Payne:

"I am a current student at this school and feel this is a slap in the face to any teacher. I was a student of hers during my first year of high school, and nothing that she said or did gave me the impression that she ever deserved to get fired. These actions taken by my schools officials are saying that no teacher can have a life outside of school. She is over the legal age to drink, and should not have to hide. TEACHERS ARE PEOPLE, and that cannot be forgotten. As for the inappropriate language used on her facebook, just take a day and walk down our halls and listen, much worse is said by students."

Winder teacher sues over dismissal
Published Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WINDER - A former Winder high school teacher is suing the Barrow County School District for coercing her to resign because of her Facebook page, she said.

PDF: Read a copy of the lawsuit filed against the Barrow County School District:
View lawsuit

Ashley Payne, 24, claims officials at Apalachee High School pressured her to resign after they found pictures of Payne holding alcoholic beverages and posting a message about a "Bitch BINGO" event on her Facebook profile.

The school district violated the Georgia Fair Dismissal Act, [see "Ten Mistakes School Districts Make"-Ed.] because no one told her she was entitled to a hearing, and that a suspension would not have lasted more than 10 days, her attorney, Richard Storrs, said Monday.

"She was constructively terminated because she was not made aware of her rights. We're asking the judge to direct the school board to give her this hearing," Storrs said.

The suit, filed in Barrow County Superior Court, asked the court to order the Barrow County Board of Education to hold a hearing, as well as back pay from the day she resigned and court costs.

Schools Superintendent Ron Saunders (pictured at right) declined to comment Monday about the lawsuit and Payne's allegations. "We don't discuss personnel issues like this in public," Saunders said.

Payne resigned Aug. 27, after Apalachee High Principal David McGee met with her without warning, she said.

McGee questioned her about her Facebook page, which included pictures of her holding glasses of wine and beer and about using bad language, Payne said.

"He said that if it was just the language or just the pictures, I might be OK," Payne said. "But with both, there was no way I could win.

"He said I should resign, or he would suspend me, and I thought at the time that he had the authority to suspend me. He strongly advised me to do it."

Payne had taught literature to ninth- and 10th-graders at the school for two years. She had no other complaints against her, and still doesn't know who alerted the school about her Facebook page.

"There's so much focus on this one little thing in my personal life, and nothing on the good things I had done there," Payne said. "I didn't do anything unethical or immoral. I didn't use that kind of language or act that way in the classroom."

Payne's lawsuit claims McGee had his administrator help Payne write her resignation letter and gave her no warning of the complaint, forcing her to make a decision on the spot.

Storrs and Payne asked the school district in September to rescind her resignation and grant her a hearing. State law requires a school district to provide the teacher with a written notice of alleged charges and a hearing before the local school board.

The district denied the request, Storrs said.

"They weren't willing to do anything about the situation," he said.

Payne contends that her Facebook profile is private and should not have been visible to students and their parents.

Facebook is a social networking Web site that allows members and their friends to upload photos and send messages that other friends can see.

The pictures of Payne holding drinks were taken while she was on vacation in Europe over the summer, she said. On one message, she wrote, "Going to Bitch BINGO," the name of a game played at an Atlanta restaurant.

"What she said on there was pretty innocuous, and they overreacted," Storrs said.

A court hearing has not been set in the case, which was filed last month.
Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Analysis of Georgia State Board of Education Dismissal Appeal Decisions From 1991 To 2001

Facebook flap in Barrow raises troubling fairness issues
4:44 pm November 13, 2009, by Maureen Downey

I was going to wait until Monday to post this column but I am putting the piece up now as I think this story deserves a healthy dose of sunshine. To grasp this entire bizarre story, please read my two earlier related posts, especially the one right below on the anonymous e-mail that set this whole tragicomedy in motion.

After her three-week trip to Europe this summer, Barrow County teacher Ashley Payne posted 700 photos to Facebook. Ten of those photos showed her in pubs and beer gardens.

Payne’s Facebook page is set to a high privacy level and is accessible only to friends to whom she has granted access. Recognizing her position as a role model, Payne says she has never allowed access to students or parents at Apalachee High School, where she taught.

Believing that only her adult friends could see her postings, Payne also felt comfortable posting a brief comment on Aug. 26 announcing that she was headed out to play “Crazy Bitch Bingo,” a popular game played weekly at a Midtown restaurant.

But by the next morning, someone had sent an anonymous e-mail to the Barrow superintendent. The e-mailer claimed to be a parent whose daughter had access to Payne’s Facebook page. The daughter had allegedly seen both the note about bingo and “unacceptable photos” of Payne “smiling with alcohol for all her online friends to view.”

“Her behavior is intolerable,” wrote the e-mailer.

Less than two hours later, Payne was sitting in the assistant principal’s office, where she was pressured to resign. According to Barrow spokeswoman Lisa Leighton, the incident demonstrates the high standard of conduct to which school employees are held.

Initially, the school system told me that it would not reveal the name of the mother who sent the e-mail to protect her privacy. But it turns out that Barrow has no idea who sent the e-mail or whether the parent or daughter even exist.

The e-mail itself reads as though it was written by another teacher rather than by a parent.

When summoned into the meeting with principal David McGee and assistant principal Dorann Mansberger, Payne acknowledged the posting of vacation photos and her use of the word “bitch.” But she pointed out that she had never allowed students or parents access to her Facebook page.

Payne is now suing to get her job back.

According to court documents filed by the district in response to the lawsuit, “Mr. McGee told Plaintiff that she would be suspended and her conduct reported to the Professional Standards Committee. Plaintiff asked if she could resign.”

At that point, however, the stories diverge. McGee says that Payne volunteered to resign. Payne says she was coerced.

“There was no mention of a warning,” Payne said. “No ‘Could you please take these things down?’ I was told, ‘We are going to have to suspend you and your only other option is to resign.’”

“At no time did I tell her she had to resign,” countered McGee in a statement released by Barrow officials. In that statement, McGee concedes that he presented Payne with some dire scenarios:

“She asked about options and I told her she always had the option of resigning. I told her that I had no idea what the Professional Standards Commission (PSC) would do. I told her I had seen suspensions, fines and loss of teaching certificates.”

If such a case had indeed been forwarded to the standards commission — an anonymous e-mail, with no proof that a child was actually involved, complaining about photos of American tourists sitting in beer gardens and the use of the word “bitch” — it should have been laughed off as groundless.

The fact that instead a school system reacted so recklessly and quickly — with no apparent skepticism whatsoever — finally helps me understand how so many people fall for those Nigerian e-mail scams.

In several conversations with the Barrow spokeswoman, I was told that the critical issue wasn’t the vacation photos or Payne’s use of an expletive. Instead, it was the “fact” that she had given a student inappropriate access to her personal Facebook account.

A “fact” for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

This is the Internet folks. The “concerned parent” could have been anybody: an old boyfriend, a jealous teacher, a nutcase. Barrow administrators didn’t know anything about the sender of the poison e-mail.

But they did know Payne.

A 2007 University of Georgia honors graduate, Payne had taught at the high school for two years. She seemed to do fine; her students posted higher End of Course Test scores than the county average. (McGee seems to agree, writing: “Ashley has completed two satisfactory years at Apalachee High School.”)

A confused Payne now wonders whether she had unknowingly crossed some line with her boss, noting that she had met with McGee a week earlier to lament that he had never observed her class. But she did not think that conversation might contribute to the loss of her job.

According to Leighton, the Barrow spokeswoman, the county had recently unearthed a policy for teachers dating back to 1938. Those antiquated rules required that unmarried female teachers live with families and never be seen outside after dark. Seen from the perspective of 70 years later, those rules seem preposterous, Leighton said.

But it doesn’t take the perspective of 70 years or even 70 seconds to recognize that the policy that entrapped Payne is ludicrous, dangerous and unfair.

Barrow teacher done in by anonymous “parent” e-mail about her Facebook page
3:12 pm November 13, 2009, by Maureen Downey

I have spent a good part of this week working on the story about Barrow County teacher Ashley Payne. Payne resigned – under pressure, she alleges — after her principal said she was going to be suspended for her Facebook postings of photos with alcohol and her use of the word “bitch.” She is now suing the system. (See earlier posting on this for more background.)

Payne posted that she was headed out to play Crazy Bitch Bingo, a popular game played weekly at Joe’s On Juniper in Atlanta.

Her photos are just standard tourist shots of Payne on vacation in Europe, sitting at pubs and beer gardens. Of 700 vacation photos, 10 had alcohol in them.

Somehow, the principal told Payne that a student had seen her Facebook page. I asked several times this week for Barrow to explain to me how it learned that a student saw the page since Payne says her buddy list does not include any parents or students. It does include fellow teachers.

Barrow officials told me a parent had brought the information to the superintendent’s attention, but the district would not release the parent’s name.

Now, I know why.

They don’t have a name. Barrow acted on an anonymous e-mail sent from a fake address. Within two hours of the Barrow superintendent reading this e-mail on the morning of Aug. 27, Payne was watching her career dissolve.

Below is the e-mail, which I think was written by another teacher who did not like Payne and wanted her gone.

There are many reasons why I believe that. First, very few people outside of teachers have the punctuation skills of this writer. Note the punctuation inside a quote. And I have never had anyone feel compelled to explain that Facebook is “a social networking site” outside of academics.

Plus, when is the last time a parent talked about alliteration in such casual fashion?

As well, most parents would say, “My child is a student in Ms. Payne’s literature class.” But this person wrote, “My daughter is a pupil in one of Ms. Payne’s literature classes.”

Why? Because as a teacher, this person knows that teachers teach multiple classes and falls into that phrasing instinctively.

Superintendent Dr. Ron Saunders recognizes Haymon-Morris Middle School Principal, Dr. Sheila Kahrs. Dr. Kahrs is the 2010 MetLife/NASSP National Middle School Principal of the Year.

Read the e-mail and let’s discuss. (By the way, I sent an e-mail to the return e-mail address on this “parent” note. It could not be delivered because it doesn’t exist.) My story on this issue runs Monday.

To: Dr. Ron Saunders; Ken Greene

Sent: Aug. 27

Subject: Disappointed and worried about my daughter’s teacher

To whom it may concern,

My daughter is a pupil in one of Ms. Payne’s literature classes and friend of hers on the social networking site “Facebook.” Tonight, my daughter says to me casually, “Mom, I’m going to hang out with my bitches.” Shell shocked, I told her not to use profane language in my house ever again.

To make matters worse, my daughter laughs in my face, trying to comfort me by saying, “Mom, it’s ok! Ms. Payne calls her friends bitches! Then she comforts me more by proving to me via “Facebook” and sure enough, it is similar to what Ms. Payne had said in her status update, except hers exclaims: “Ashley Payne is at Bitch Bingo with her bitches.”

I’m standing over my daughter as she scrolls down the page thinking to myself, yes, Ms. Payne what an excellent way to teach my daughter the concept of alliteration!

Ms. Payne also has an unacceptable picture of herself smiling with alcohol for all her online friends to view. See attached.

I am repulsed by Ms. Payne’s profane use of language and how she conducts herself as an example to my teenage daughter. Her behavior is intolerable. I have a question to the Barrow County School System. Is it too hard for our educators to lack discipline online and offline?

I have chosen to remain anonymous regarding this matter for the sake of my daughter.

Ok, teachers. You are the experts. Did a real parent write this? Keep in mind that Payne says she went home after her meeting with the principal and her Facebook was still set at the private level, and there were no students on her friends list.

New addition: After getting a copy of this anonymous e-mail this morning from Barrow along with the statement of the principal, I sent these questions to Barrow spokeswoman Lisa Leighton.

I am showing you exactly what I sent her and the response I received at 4:15 p.m Friday.

Lisa, A critical question after reviewing these documents: This e-mail alleging the original complaint is from Jane Doe. She states that she will not give her name. (”I have chosen to remain anonymous.”) She gives you all a disguised e-mail to which you can’t respond.

How do you know this is true? How do you know this is a parent and not a friend of Ashley’s seeking to get her in trouble?

Where is the evidence that this student exists and that she was, as stated in the anonymous e-mail, admitted to Payne’s Facebook page as a friend? Ashley Payne says she was called into the assistant principal’s office before 8 a.m. The system only received this anonymous complaint at 6: 19 am and threatened suspension in two hours time? That is an incredible turn-around response to an anonymous complaint.

I must note here that you told me earlier today that, “We are protecting the parent and the student and are not releasing their names.”

According to this information, you never had the names. Did you track the parent down? If so, how? Did you track down the parent prior to calling in Payne, which means you had to do so within an hour or so?

Mr. McGee states in his statement that Payne’s Facebook page was “viewed by at least one student and parent.” How was that verified? Please clarify.

If there was a follow-up e-mail where this parent came forward, I would like to see it. Feel free to redact the name, but I think it is important for the county to make clear that it has met this parent and verified this information, meaning you talked to the student and ascertained through Facebook that she did, indeed, have authorized access to Ms. Payne’s Facebook page

Thanks, Maureen

This the response from Barrow County:

Our first step in investigating any complaint is to get the other side. Ms. Payne resigned before we were allowed to investigate further. In addition to what you do have I am also attaching our official statement.

Thank you so much Maureen for gathering as much factual information as possible prior to publishing. I do admire your professionalism.

Official Statement on behalf of Barrow County Schools
November 13, 2009
On behalf of Barrow County Schools a petition has been filed in response to Ms. Payne’s lawsuit through the Superior Court of Barrow County in the state of Georgia. Due to the fact that this is both a personnel and legal matter we are unable to comment further.

Ashley Payne in another one of 10 pictures out of 700 posted on her facebook page about her vacation

Some postings can be obvious violations, but there's a big gray area
Teacher Facebook flap stirs debate

By Merritt Melancon -
Published Saturday, November 14, 2009

Facebook and other social networking Web sites help people reconnect with old friends and keep in touch with former classmates, but they also can give students unprecedented access to the private lives of their teachers.

Every year, teachers like former Apalachee High School teacher Ashley Payne find out how fast students can find their personal pages on Facebook or MySpace, or some home video posted on YouTube.

Payne made national headlines this week when she sued the Barrow County School District, claiming she was forced to resign without due process after administrators confronted her about the content of her page on the popular networking Web site Facebook.

Just three weeks into the 2009-10 school year, one of her students told Apalachee officials that Payne's Facebook page included photos of her drinking alcohol and a reference to "Bitch Bingo," which is a version of a traditional bingo game where contestants are trying to spell "bitch" rather than "bingo."

"There's so much focus on this one little thing in my personal life, and nothing on the good things I had done there," Payne said earlier this week. "I didn't do anything unethical or immoral. I didn't use that kind of language or act that way in the classroom."

School districts across Northeast Georgia, which attract young teachers just graduating from the University of Georgia, have tried to hammer home the importance of maintaining a professionally acceptable persona online as well as in public. UGA College of Education professors also have started to warn students while they're still in school to keep the crazier parts of their college careers off the Internet.

Teachers are very aware of the damage inappropriate online postings can have on their careers - but what one person considers inappropriate might be deemed well within bounds by someone else.

The Facebook photos of Payne drinking wine and beer were taken while she was traveling in Europe, not downing hurricanes at Mardi Gras. Bitch Bingo, despite the name, is hosted at multiple Atlanta restaurants for young and middle-age professionals.

Payne's transgressions certainly could have been shown on prime time TV, said Richard Storrs, the lawyer who is representing Payne.

"After the meeting (where Payne says she was urged to resign), all of Ashley's teacher friends pulled down their Facebook pages," Storrs said. "None of them thought they were doing anything wrong; they just didn't want be involved in any controversy."

The standard laid out by Georgia's Professional Standards Commission, the body that issues teaching licenses to educators in Georgia, is that a teacher's behavior is inappropriate if it defames the profession or keeps the teacher from being effective in the classroom.

Sometimes it's easy to determine whether a teacher's behavior violates that standard, said Gary Walker, the commission's deputy executive secretary.

It's a clear violation if a teacher invites students to join his Facebook friends and has inappropriate material on his page, Walker said. Same thing, if a teacher is using a social networking site to carry on an inappropriate relationship with a student, he said. If a teacher posts nude pictures somewhere where students can find them, that's probably a violation, too.

Walker investigated about 20 Internet-related complaints involving teachers last year.

However, sometimes a teacher shares some inappropriate information online without meaning for students or parents to find it. Then the standard is: Will the information inhibit the teacher's ability to teach?

Walker teaches a course each year for school leaders on how to explain to teachers what not to put up on the Web. He uses examples from the Web site to paint a clear picture of what not to post. The site includes some pretty extreme examples of inappropriate behavior.

Still, few school systems have written policies delineating exactly what questionable online activities are inappropriate enough to warrant disciplinary action.

"Nobody's really sure where the legal line is, anyway," said Madison County School Superintendent Mitch McGhee about the gray area between individual rights and inappropriate behavior.

"You've got issues that are easy, like child pornography - that's a no-brainer," McGhee said. "Or if you threaten someone, like if you put, 'I hate Mitch McGhee and I'm going to burn his house down,' on your Facebook page - that's pretty obvious violation.

"But if someone complains because there's a photo of (a teacher) with a glass of wine or because of the clothes they're wearing - well, there's a whole lot of gray area there," he said.

School administrators in Barrow and Jackson counties already are working on policies designed to clear up that gray area.

Barrow school leaders were crafting a policy on private Internet use before Payne filed suit and the Barrow Board of Education could act on it before the end of the year, said district spokeswoman Lisa Leighton.

The draft stipulates that supervisors have the right to conduct online searches for inappropriate postings by their employees, delineates the different ways the relationship between a teacher and students can be inappropriate and sets out exactly what is prohibited on social networking sites, Leighton said.

"Employees who post information on Facebook, MySpace or similar Web sites that include inappropriate personal information such as, but not limited to: Provocative photographs, sexually explicit messages, use of alcohol, drugs or anything students are prohibited from doing must understand that if students, parents or other employees obtain access to such information, their case will be investigated by school and district officials and if warranted (the employee) will be disciplined up to and including termination, depending upon the severity of the offense," reads the draft policy.

Even if school systems adopt specific guidelines for online behavior, legal questions may linger about whether a private Facebook page is part of a teacher's private life or her public and professional persona, said John Drayton, a University of Georgia law professor who studies education issues.

Schools have a vested interest in their teachers being trustworthy role models for their students, but there is a fine line between a "teacher's public responsibilities, which are clearly subject to regulation by school officials, and individual teachers' purely private lives, which are not," Drayton said.

"And new technologies such as Facebook and other social networking sites have further blurred these lines," Drayton wrote in an e-mail.

"Given that these technologies are still relatively new, there is limited legal guidance and certainly no bright-line test defining the exact line between teacher's public and private lives."

Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Saturday, November 14, 2009

Schools officials respond to lawsuit

Barrow claims teacher's exit her own decision
By Merritt Melancon -, November 12, 2009

WINDER - Barrow County Schools officials Wednesday responded to the lawsuit filed by a former high school English teacher who said she was forced to resign after her principal confronted her about her Facebook page.

District officials claim the 24-year-old teacher jumped at the chance to resign after officials told her she could be suspended because of photographs and profanity on her Facebook page.

She quit before officials could explain the school's disciplinary process or her right to a personnel hearing, according to the district's response to her suit.

Ashley Payne, who taught language arts at Apalachee High School for two years, resigned Aug. 27 after Principal David McGee confronted her about pictures of Payne holding alcoholic beverages and a message concerning "Bitch BINGO" on the social-networking Web site Facebook.

Payne filed suit in Barrow County Superior Court, claiming that school officials violated the Georgia Fair Dismissal Act because no one told her she was entitled to a hearing or that a suspension would not have lasted more than 10 days, said her attorney, Richard Storrs.

She asked the court to order the Barrow County Board of Education to hold a hearing, as well as grant back pay from the day she resigned and order the school system to pay court costs.

School district officials admit that no one told Payne about the length of her suspension or her rights to a personnel hearing, but they claim that Payne seemed adamant about her decision.

"McGee did not provide the information alleged but states that these disclosures were precluded by Plaintiff's request to resign," according to the response.

McGee asked Payne whether she needed more time to make her decision and she said no, according to school district's response.

When Payne asked to rescind her resignation and have a personnel hearing as she would have had if she was suspended, school officials told her no.

"(The school district) admits that no hearing has been provided to this date because a teacher who resigns is not entitled to rescind the resignation and receive a hearing," according to the suit.

School district officials are asking that the judge dismiss the complaint, saying that Payne resigned voluntarily and has offered no evidence to the contrary. The district also is asking that Payne compensate the district for its legal expenses.
Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Thursday, November 12, 2009

Teacher Fired Over Facebook Sues District
Ashley Payne Not Informed Of Her Rights, Her Attorney Says


November 10, 2009
WINDER, Ga. -- A former high school teacher is suing a north Georgia school district, alleging she was forced to resign over photos and expletives on her Facebook page.

Ashley Payne, 24, claimed the Barrow County school district violated state labor law because she was never told she was entitled to a hearing. Her attorney, Richard Storrs, said the former Apalachee High School teacher was "not made aware of her rights" and should be granted the hearing.

Barrow County school Superintendent Ron Saunders declined comment on the lawsuit because it is a personnel issue.

Payne resigned Aug. 27 after her principal questioned her about her Facebook page, which included photos of her holding wine and beer and an expletive. She had worked at the school for two years.

Should a teacher’s Facebook posts ruin her career?
November 10, 2009, by Maureen Downey

A former high school teacher is suing a north Georgia school district, alleging she was forced to resign over photos and expletives on Facebook.

Ashley Payne contends that the Barrow County school district violated state labor law because she was never told she was entitled to a hearing. Her attorney, Richard Storrs, says the 24-year-old former Apalachee High School teacher was “not made aware of her rights” and should be granted the hearing.

After teaching at the school for two years, Payne resigned in August after her principal questioned her about her Facebook page, which included photos of her holding wine and beer and an expletive.

(Payne told the Athens Banner Herald it was the “B” word that landed her in hot water with her principal. She posted it in the context of saying she was going to an Atlanta restaurant that featured a game called Crazy “B” Bingo. Here is a link to the bars that hold Crazy Bxxxx Bingo games.)

The more I learn about this case, I have to wonder who’s crazy here.

Unless the school system has other concerns about this teacher, I can’t understand how her Facebook page content – which would be tame for even my mother – would get her fired.

Barrow has a policy that states employees can be investigated and disciplined for postings on Web sites that contain provocative photographs, sexually explicit messages, use of alcohol, drugs or anything students are prohibited from doing. And the policy allows for termination for such transgressions.

According to the Barrow Journal:

According to the court filing, [principal] McGee informed Payne that the school system strongly disapproved of her activity on the popular social networking site Facebook. Specifically, McGee objected to photos which showed Payne holding alcoholic beverages while on vacation and a status update which used a pejorative term for females.

Allegedly McGee then told Payne that her online conduct was unacceptable and that if she did not resign, she would be suspended. McGee further advised that a suspension would adversely affect her chances for future employment. The filing states that McGee told Payne that she “could not win this” and that resignation was her best option.

As a result of the meeting, Payne resigned from the school system immediately.

The lawsuit states that Payne was not informed of her right to a hearing, nor was it disclosed that a suspension could only be for a period of ten days. As a result, Payne claimed her resignation was wrongfully coerced by McGee.

Frankly, given the sex tapes that folks are making and sending (Miss California, for instance) and the other outrageous stuff on the Internet, does this case warrant removal of the teacher?

And should teachers be accountable for what they do off hours as long as their conduct is legal?

Reader Comments
+ 7 Rating
Posted by: vetta at Nov. 10, 2009 at 12:45:51 am

"Payne contends that her Facebook profile is private and should not have been visible to students and their parents." Nothing over the Internet is PRIVATE!! Have some people not figured this out by now? I know for a fact that there are ways to see people's photos and status via Facebook even if their page is PRIVATE and you're not on their friend list. Anyway, I don't agree with the school's actions that they took against her. If this was a parent that reported this, I wonder if their child has a Facebook or Myspace page. If so, do they monitor it as closely too.
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: athensga2 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 1:23:35 am

Classy broad. Smart, too. No doubt the parents will march on the School Board building, in support of her complaints.
+ 12 Rating
Posted by: stpaisleyblue at Nov. 10, 2009 at 1:35:44 am

I hope she wins her case. It's no big deal for a 24 year old woman to have a few drinks while at an event she didn't name! Next thing they'll be telling teachers they can't marry like the old days. It's not like she broke the law or anything. Guess if she'd been a winning coach, they'd have swept this under the rug.
-16 Rating
Posted by: ramboneus at Nov. 10, 2009 at 2:19:27 am

She was appropriately fired not necessarily for content on the page, but because someone in her position should know better than to post such things on a Facebook page. How can anyone in such a public and sensitive job be so stupid?

+ 4 Rating
Posted by: melquiades at Nov. 10, 2009 at 4:54:11 am

So this sounds like a pretty dangerous direction to go in, rambo: public jobs have some sort of 24 hour responsibility, which the employer doesn't have to define in advance?
The alcohol industry makes a lot of money in this country, and the game she was going to was publicly exactly what is she doing that's inappropriate?

Believe it or not, this issue illustrates the same failing that we see with the Fort Hood killings: every time something happens, people act like 'they' should take care of it, as though society owes us all a blanket of propriety that is infinitely responsive to new conditions in the world. That's a fantasy. If the teacher in question (or psychiatrist in question) is acting inappropriately in the conduct of their job, then the individual human beings who come into contact with them will see it and should talk about their concerns with the appropriate authorities. If this teacher were in the school or with her specific students promoting underage drinking or public profanity, then that has to do with the conduct of her job (which IS the principal's responsibility) then he SHOULD release her. If not, the he shouldn't.
Many people were aware that Hasan was increasingly radical in his views and emotional in his behavior, but no one took personal responsibility for assuring that the authorities stayed on THEIR jobs.
-2 Rating
Posted by: athensga2 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 5:07:24 am

The attempt at a Fort Hood shootings parallel is absurd.
This is simply a case of a young teacher not realizing she's an adult now -- and, by contractual obligation, a role model. Facebook, MySpace, et al., are really cool places to post shots of you and your honey living it up, if you're a college senior. If you're the teacher, you've crossed over to the other side and you have to be careful not to even get close to the line. The kids do see it, and they will exploit it. It's not hard to understand.
+ 13 Rating
Posted by: bannerreader at Nov. 10, 2009 at 5:12:52 am

Based upon the facts as presented in this article, I am on the teacher's side. . .
+ 4 Rating
Posted by: marshalld at Nov. 10, 2009 at 5:54:43 am

Folks, she's 24 years old and made a mistake. Now she knows better. Was any student harmed in any way? Sounds like Mr. principal jumped the gun and became the morality police all on his own. Give the job back, tell her not to do it again and allow her to become a great teacher.
+ 5 Rating
Posted by: hamdawg at Nov. 10, 2009 at 6:07:28 am

Did the principal not get any perspective or input from their attorney before making this stupid move? He and his school system are gonna pay, as they should.

Sounds like she may have been one of my favorite teachers- young, relatable, but not out of control.
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: alangston at Nov. 10, 2009 at 6:16:10 am

so.. because she had a drink in her hand and a bingo sign with a few extra words. she should loose her job?? im sure there are alot of people who work with her who use foul language and drink. but they choose to keep there use in the closet....since when is having a facebook with photos cause you to loose your job.. i bet that the students of that school have worse pics on there facebook and would not care about her's.i think someone wanted her gone and this is there lame excuse ...
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: bbiggy4 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 6:24:29 am

if she was muslim it would be a non issue. go figure
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: mtnbranch at Nov. 10, 2009 at 6:31:53 am

To support her termination, one must also support, nay, demand forced resignation of many other public figures.
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: TieDyedTiger at Nov. 10, 2009 at 6:32:53 am

"Role model." Ridiculous. More stupidity and hypocrisy from alleged conservatives. The same crowd that's always whining about government interference when it comes to property taxes, business regulations, or health care plans has no problem with (A) the government regulating the private life of a state employee or (B) assuming that the government employee in question should be a "role model" away from the school. Parents (of whatever political persuasion, but particularly those who run their mouths about the "nanny state"): provide your own role modeling for your children. The only place you should expect a teacher to be a role model is in the discharge of his/her professional duties.

FYI, according to the story in the Barrow County News, the pictures in question were from a tour of Europe, where the adult in question toured the Guinness brewery in Ireland and had some wine in Italy. These weren't "Animal House"-style shenanigans. Those are the normal sorts of things adults do when they go to Europe.
-1 Rating
Posted by: manurestopperr at Nov. 10, 2009 at 6:49:25 am

I bet she is a hottie! I remember that hot woman from Fla a few yrs ago at that Catholic School. I think she went with one of her students and was fired. Why didn't I ever have teachers like that in H.S?
-8 Rating
Posted by: Neoconfromhell at Nov. 10, 2009 at 6:55:51 am

No one told an "educated" teacher that she had a right to a hearing?
There's your first red flag.
I guess Ms/Mrs Payne can post on the internet a steamy sexual encounter....(and just tell the public and her students not to look).

-8 Rating
Posted by: Dawghuff at Nov. 10, 2009 at 7:01:20 am

Idiot Republicans want this teacher fired but "want the government out of our private lives".... LOL

You can bet this principle was a Republican, no Democrat would give a rat's behind what she was drinking or doing after hours.
-2 Rating
Posted by: mtnbranch at Nov. 10, 2009 at 7:36:04 am

Dawghuff, I completely agree with your first statement. In response to your second statement: no matter the political bent, a good principal would take action, give a warning, and sweep this under the carpet.
What is most likely, the principle reason for termination was to eliminate staff to stay within budget; this was simply a convenient reason.
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: ithink at Nov. 10, 2009 at 7:36:29 am

Neocom, do you know anything about the teaching profession? It is not like many jobs where a person has an HR director in close proximity all day. Her "education" has nothing to do with knowledge of disciplinary procedures. Your comments are ignorant, inflammatory and melodramatic!
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: freddyt1 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 7:37:50 am

Ok she was stupid to put this on her facebook page if she is a teacher. We all know that teachers are supposed to be perfect little saints. But this had nothing to do with her job, it didnt take place during school hours, and no students were involved. She should not have been fired for this. A lot of people with much higher paying jobs have done worse things and kept their jobs. Teachers are humans also.
Posted by: freddyt1 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 7:39:14 am

PS. I bet she's a hottie also
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: volgrad at Nov. 10, 2009 at 7:52:23 am

How is posting pics that include alcohol (which is legal and socially acceptable) or the "B" word (OMG I said it) on FaceBook (which is reasonably private) any different than some of the moronic crap people post in this ridiculous news rag? She did nothing wrong. She was confronted (and likely bullied) by the princ and forced to make a decision on the spot. She was ambushed. Her only mistake was not seeking legal counsel before turning in a resignation. She should have made them fire her outright so she could sue ... and that's from someone that believes this country is too litigious in the first place.
+ 3 Rating
Posted by: athensmother at Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:08:12 am

This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Before I got into the article, I thought maybe there were racy pictures or something but a tour of Europe and a social event (likely organized and named by someone else) with a word in it that is allowed on network television. She deserves to win and likely will.
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: joeypol at Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:33:10 am

Barrow is as Barrow does. Let's not forget where we live, folks. Set your watch back a few years (er uh, decades...).
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: nxs at Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:35:53 am

Some of you puritans posting here need to wake up and realize that, yes, we have indeed entered the 21st century. There were pictures of her having a drink (last time I checked, perfectly legal to do at 24 while having your picture made) AND she posted the word ***** (a word I'm sure no high school student or parent has ever heard or seen, much less said! These are NORMAL, contemporary adult behaviors. If he didn't get her for that, the principal would probably have called her to the office when she assigned Catcher In The Rye and he realized it has naughty words in it. Although, I'm assuming the Barrow "Ten Commandments" County school board has already burned that one. I hope she gets her job back but, really, who would want to go back and work under some fundamentalist, conservative, lying troll. Better to just try and sue them (him) for all they're worth and move on.
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: votejoehayes at Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:38:27 am

Ask a football coach what GATA means? I've driving school buses before the kids at school say words that go way beond "*****".
Posted by: Luke8400 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:39:08 am

Obviously she made a mistake; you need to be careful about what you put on the internet. But Facebook deserves some blame too--there was a time when your profiles were private and only accessible by friends, but it's become less secure as they open it up, and they don't always make the privacy changes clear to users.

Increased responsibility comes with the job. You're working with kids, so you can't do the same things you did in college. That being said, she absolutely shouldn't be fired. An administrator found the pictures, not students or parents, so he should have just told her to remove them and to be more careful in the future.
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: survivor201 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:47:36 am

If this man, Mr. McGee has children...I am just curious on how many times they (his children) have heard him say profanity or drink a beer or two. Not to mention...has this man ever seen what some of these kids...his students included have on THEIR facebook or myspace or tagged web pages. Wonder if he's willing to suspend all the students in his school for having far worse on those pages?
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: teekia at Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:48:01 am

wow, typical Barrow County mess. So she loses her job for a picture and wording on her facebook..Mr.McGee,i am one of your former students class of 1994 (WBHS) and i am socked. I know several students that attend "THE CHEE" and have seen their facebook pages, let me clue you.. your students have pictures of girls w/girls, and talk about profanity...not to mention the underage drinking pictures and oh yes, there are some pictures of some of your TOP HONOR STUDENTS and STAR ATHLETICS that maybe you should be alerted too..the point i am trying to make is.."THE CHEE" has other issues you should be concerned about instead of this mess w/this teacher whom alot of students liked. She is an adult and her private life is just that PRIVATE..give her job back she deserves it.
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: gayecat at Nov. 10, 2009 at 9:00:00 am

This is the most rediculous thing that I have heard of and I'm 66 years old. If this is upheld they should fire every teacher, coach, administrator who has a party and serves alcohol or who has a DUI. How about those who are divorced for adultery. And how about all of the teachers, coaches and administrator who are cohabiting or have children out of wedlock ( there are several in this county). They should fire anyone who has ever been accused of any type of crime, misdemeanor or felony, even white collar criminals. How about those who make "mistakes" on their taxes. Get a life people.
+ 3 Rating
Posted by: whatsthepoint at Nov. 10, 2009 at 9:02:29 am

Dawg, get back to your village. It's idiot is missing.
Posted by: gayecat at Nov. 10, 2009 at 9:05:04 am

Sorry - I can spell - just not type this early - it is spelled ridiculous. No no I did not go to school in this county but have a child in this school system.
Posted by: gagirl21 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 9:06:00 am

Best of luck to Ms. Payne. These folks need to be concerned with other issues besides a Facebook page.
-3 Rating
Posted by: EDAWG1 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 9:08:30 am

Obama went to far this time.
-5 Rating
Posted by: smplgic1 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 9:09:39 am

"any hiring is presumed to be "at will"; that is, the employer is free to discharge individuals "for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all," and the employee is equally free to quit, strike, or otherwise cease work."

GA Law! Live with it! Our teachers should be good examples to students and should be smart enough to know that the internet is NOT a good place to flaunt you bad habits.
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: ppensyl at Nov. 10, 2009 at 9:26:07 am

Yet Saunders allowed our Principal (when my child was in BC Schools) to have her hair cut on the clock in the special ed classroom, by the special ed teacher. The Barrow County School system is corrupt. It all starts at the top. I would not send my dog there.
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: bct2009 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 9:39:19 am

Yet married teachers can openly have affairs and receive raises and promotions. Interesting indeed.
-2 Rating
Posted by: JFKDawg at Nov. 10, 2009 at 9:42:49 am

While I am in support of this teacher's claim, one has to wonder how clueless you have to be to not know your rights any better than she did and being able to be lead down a path she should have known was wrong. She didn't know her rights and had to have help writing a resignation letter by the very people wanting to get rid of her? Aren't the teachers unionized? I hear the movie theater in Winder is showing "Footloose" this weekend.
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: CoastalDawg at Nov. 10, 2009 at 9:59:05 am

"No one told an "educated" teacher that she had a right to a hearing?
There's your first red flag." The red flag should be on the principal; in this time of teachers being thrown on the trash heap because of "lack funding" they are anxious to do what they believe might save their career. In one nearby county 100 teachers were "instructed" to resign their jobs although in reality they were being forced out of their jobs due to budget cuts - they were told that a resignation would be better on the resume than a non-renewal of contract; nothing could be further from the truth and that was a move to keep them from applying for unemployment. The principal in this case probably really didn't have the AUTHORITY to make this teacher resign regardless of what he thought about her facebook posting - if he had such great authority why not ask her to remove what he deemed to be offensive? Teachers can be recommended by school principals but their actual hiring must be confirmed by the local school board and the same should be true with firings or resignations. I personally know of one teacher who was scammed into resigning in this county that cut 100 teachers; when he applied for an opening in another county he was informed that he couldn't be considered because of his "dings" or resignations, resignations that were strongly suggested by the school boards for various reasons, none of them reflective on him as a individual or as a teacher. So this principal stepped over the line and the resignation probably will be found not to be worth the paper on which it was written, particularly if he and/or his staff helped her create it. Prior to signing it though she should have immediately contacted her superintendent of schools for a hearing before the entire board. The board, of course, should not even have accepted the resignation without a hearing.
Posted by: at2b at Nov. 10, 2009 at 10:02:40 am

I wish Obama would stay out of this. Does he really need to have a beer with Ms. Payne?
+ 5 Rating
Posted by: CoastalDawg at Nov. 10, 2009 at 10:06:12 am

By the way, this litigation will cost the county far more than that teacher's salary for the year, another inept move on the part of the principal. If he really felt as if she should be fired, why did he not consult the school board FIRST and/or the county attorney? Maybe this principal should be replaced by the fired teacher.
-2 Rating
Posted by: catman306 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 10:26:14 am

CoastalDawg wrote: "Maybe this principal should be replaced by the fired teacher"

Or anyone with a pulse who's not an ideologue. Run the principal out of town on the CSX but put a warning on the rail car: 'Toxic Waste'.
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: catman306 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 10:32:35 am

smplgic1 wrote:
"any hiring is presumed to be "at will"; that is, the employer is free to discharge individuals "for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all," and the employee is equally free to quit, strike, or otherwise cease work."

But that doesn't apply to union workers or anyone else with an employment contract that doesn't include those words.

Live with it.
Posted by: freddyt1 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 10:33:19 am

Why is it that Michael Vick can torture animals and keep his job but a teacher can't have a drink or just be a normal human being? I know what school district I will never send my children to. Idiots!
Posted by: ThreeDollarBill at Nov. 10, 2009 at 10:59:23 am

Michael Vick didn't keep his job.

His little peccadillo probably cost him a minimum of 20 million dollars.

Personally, I would wonder about anyone who went to Italy and didn't have a glass or two or three of wine. There's a reason it's called a "vacation."

As to the "dirty word" note that she didn't use it, but was incorporating an advertised commercial event that apparently had no shame using the word.

Can't someone in W-B tell us if she's a hottie? It's especially bad to run off a teacher who is hot.
Posted by: avidgolfer at Nov. 10, 2009 at 11:08:40 am

Political correctness run wild. Just as in the "weapons" cases on school grounds which result in dire penalties for students, so, too, teachers must suffer for a 'non-event' such as this because the administrators either have no discretionary powers or are afraid to use them. I hope the courts can rectify this travesty of justice.
Posted by: bobbidyboo at Nov. 10, 2009 at 11:21:24 am

One huge mistake she made is making a quick decision instead of sleeping on it and looking at her options including talking with her peeps. It's an uphill battle once you have signed a resignation.
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: mortimer_snerd at Nov. 10, 2009 at 11:21:47 am

Here's a thought: go back and search the principal's past life, and the superintendent's past life, and see if they ever smoked pot or drank while they were in high school and college. Based on this principal's analysis, no one who ever did something a little dumb should be a teacher.

Could it possibly be that this principal boxer's-in-a-bunch religious wing nuts with issues of his own? If he thought it was inappropriate, he should have gone to the superintendent, and let the superintendent and the BOE handle the matter. He stepped way outside his job description and responsibility, and now the BOE is going to have to pick up the tab for his supposed "morality". I hope she wins, and I hope her lawyer pins the principal's and BOE's ears back in the process.
Posted by: bobbidyboo at Nov. 10, 2009 at 11:26:45 am

Gayecat, you're 66 years old and have a child in that school. Well, you're da stud....or studdess.
Posted by: ridecss at Nov. 10, 2009 at 11:40:44 am

I see two issues to this matter. First if the teacher had allowed any of her students or students parents to become friends of hers then there could be an issue, but not one that should cause her to be terminated. Second if no students were involved in her Facebook page then I would suggest that the principal violated her free speech rights. While the framers of the constitution did not know of future media when writing the constitution I'm sure they would have applied it to this matter. Facebook has their own morality police searching for offensive pictures and material and will delete them at their choosing. As someone who has worked in government schools there are those that seem to have their own little power trips when placed in positions of authority. My personal opinion is that the principal overstepped his authority, but my other question is why would you want to go back and work for somebody like this if you do win?
Posted by: bobbidyboo at Nov. 10, 2009 at 11:50:49 am

That's easy. It's because he's afraid to try anything else with you, whereas, a new employer would not be.
Posted by: normaltowner at Nov. 10, 2009 at 11:53:21 am

"She was constructively terminated because she was not made aware of her rights"

The facebook part of the story is irrelevant. She resigned.

The only reason the lawyer brings the suit is to make $$.
Posted by: bellehowell at Nov. 10, 2009 at 11:58:07 am

Go to her Facebook page and see for yourself.
Posted by: bonnjam at Nov. 10, 2009 at 12:15:23 pm

First: The word "*****" is used on TV shows day in and day out. There is no prohibition against using it on the airways, including non-cable shows. Look up FCC statues. Second: The purchase and consumption of alcohol is legal for anyone over 21 years old. Barrow County BOE....your going to need lots of luck winning this court case.
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: mfinv at Nov. 10, 2009 at 12:17:38 pm

Good lord at the vomments. If anyone reads this far down they must not have enough to do. Nevertheless... I support the teacher in the notion that her dismissal was without merit. However, the lawsuit is equally without merit and borders on the ridiculous! Blaming the school for her ignorance is a lame attempt to wash her hands of her responsibilities as an adult. KNOWING your rights related to any business you are involved in is a fundamental to managing your own affairs! Or does she expect the government to do that too?!
Posted by: fedupnow at Nov. 10, 2009 at 12:35:06 pm

The principal is obviously a nut job. I can't wait to hear the rest of the story, she probably denied his friend request. Hopefully, the next time she sees him he'll be asking "do you want fries with that".
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: GAGRL73 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 12:51:14 pm

It does not surprise me that this has taken place in Barrow County. I was born there and continue to live there. For the most part they people there are decent a fair minded but the ones with the power tend to take it to excess. The teacher's termination is just the latest. Two weeks ago there was an article about a lawsuit being filed against a County Commissioners, and various other "incidents" have happened. It is easier to attempt to make an example out a young teacher because she did not have time to collect her thoughts to make an informed decision and she also probably does not know the palms that need greasing to get her out of this mess. Let's be honest it's not the violation that presents the problem it is who you know. Had it been someone who had ties to the BOE, or anyone of power in Barrow she would not have been treated so unfairly. She has the same basic rights we all do. Just because she is a teacher does not mean that she has to police her every movement while she is not on her job. If the parents or school board do not like the posts on her Facebook page then request that her page not be accesible to students, but do not terminate or suspend her for the drinking or language. I know the adminstrators involved and I know that they have used inappropriate language in public before, who is to say a small child did not hear them. What is the difference? The alchohol I cannot speak to, but some of the administrators and school board officals were involved in the school system or at WBHS when I attended. Make sure you house is not made of glass before you attempt to shatter this young lady's.
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: femgineer at Nov. 10, 2009 at 12:55:11 pm

If these parents don't want their children exposed to the real world, why do they have them attending public school? IMHO, they should climb down off thier high horses and home school their own.
Miss Payne had a wonderful trip overseas and the kindness to share it via facebook. Hey, look at ads for dogs in the classifieds, ***** is all over the place. Double standards, ok here but not there.
The principle played down and dirty to stay out of the papers, oops, didn't work this time. This is all wrong.
Posted by: elljay at Nov. 10, 2009 at 12:56:05 pm

This is really sad and pathetic. I hope she's able to get a job in a system that knows to focus on real problems instead of inventing them. I almost hope there's something else going on here and that the principal isn't that much of a moron.
Posted by: junebug61568 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 12:56:47 pm

Would it be any different if the students saw her in a restaurant having a glass of wine? No! If she wasn't doing anything illegal or morally wrong then they shouldn't have even questioned her about it. I hope she wins.
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: smith62190 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 1:01:32 pm

Are teachers not supposed to be real people too? With lives outside of the classroom?
I went to a high school where all my teachers were my friends. One of my teachers was also one of my coaches and we went out to dinner as a team with our parents and our teacher/ coach ordered an alcoholic beverage at dinner. I never thought twice about it until reading this article. Ms. Payne claims the picture was taken while on vacation in Europe. I'm sure this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, which she was just taking full advantage of I'm sure and enjoying herself. It doesn't seem as if Ms. Payne was going around adding her students on facebook or accepting their friend requests, so someone must have been looking very hard to get her in trouble. No parent would just go snooping on facebook to look for their child's teacher without an alterior motive. It is not as if she had these pictures of her and these words posting on her classroom board or her desk. It was her personal facebook where she posted them for only her friends to see. These pictures are not of her dancing on bars holding alcohol and exhibiting drunken behavior. She is not only over the legal drinking age in the United States but way over the drinking age in Europe. I have never seen something so uncalled for or ludacris.
Posted by: dcox90 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 1:20:09 pm

this is absurd. I've seen several of my teachers facebook pages and myspace pages with pictures of them drinking and going crazy when I went to Oconee County HS. Not to mention several of the books that the state requires high school students to read explicitly talk about drinking and have "curse" words in them. So... it is okay for the stated to REQUIRE kids to read "curse" words and stories involving drinking however, we wouldn't dare have a teacher to display this sort of thing on their PRIVATE facebook page of which will most likely NOT be seen by any student. Also I hate to break it to you I believe recent studies have shown that 3/4 of kids in HS have tried some form of alcohol. And I'm pretty sure we can assume that 100% have seen, said, or heard the "B" word. Plus if she was drinking in Europe then it is likely that many of her students could have been sitting next to her with a beer or glass of wine in their hand if they wanted considering the drinking age is only 18 and 16 in some areas and it is not a "strict" drinking age either. Yes they were in 9th and 10th grade which would put them around 14-16 however we're talking about Barrow here, we can probably assume that most should be in 10th 11th or 12th which would put them at 16-18(likely able to drink in the same location that their teacher was seen drinking at). Sounds like a power hungry principle abusing his power. Likely a guy that was picked on a lot in HS probably fat and lonely for most of his life and sat in front of his Atari during his whole adolescent years eating PB&J's.
Posted by: peachesdelight at Nov. 10, 2009 at 1:24:13 pm

She's just like the many students in Georgia's school system: uneducated and obsessed with Facebook.

She didn't know her rights and she's been a teacher for 2 years?! She might be a *****, but has no bark!!
Posted by: mpsrn60 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 1:50:21 pm

First of all, I am responding with an insider's view to this situation, whereas, I am one of dozens of individuals (family, friends, and professional colleagues alike) that support Ashley Payne and have dedicated ourselves to her cause. Ashley is exceptionally intelligent, 07 Magna Cum Laude graduate from UGA, and has been brought up with impeccable ethical and moral standards based upon her Christian beliefs.

The supposedly incriminating snapshot, taken off of school grounds and during summer break is innocuous, yet has surely lead to life altering consequences for this young woman not to mention the damages that she has to have incurred emotionally, professionally, and financially as a result of her unwarranted dismissal. Perhaps if he believes that he is "above the law" as this principal portrays himself and can coerce a teacher into writing her own letter of resignation under extreme duress, he should be intelligent enough not to mistakenly involve a witness, a.k.a. the asst. principal, that can attest/testify to the circumstances surrounding Ms. Payne being forced to do this. In addition, there was no immoral, unethical, illegal, or even Biblical basis or rationale for his decision to terminate her employment. At the time the photo was taken, she was out of the country far from the possibility that someone from the Barrow County community to witness any behavior that could be misconstrued as intolerable and was of legal age to consume any beverage of her choosing. Furthermore, the principal (at the time of his misjudgment) had no proof of the contents in the containers in question or that she was actually consuming the beverages pictured.

Whereas, the use of social networking websites is novel and does not have a long history of their safety and privacy, it is not above consideration that Ms. Payne was naive and unassuming that she would be protected by the mechanisms that exist to protect the security of Facebook website users which is now the most popular and widely used social networking site. Supposedly, the complaint to the principal came from a "concerned parent", however, such an individual would have had to have basically stalked Ms. Payne's Facebook account looking for some cause to have her employment terminated. I doubt that a parent would be so obsessed with revenge against a teacher that they would continuously monitor a teacher's Facebook account. The principal's refusal to disclose the anonymous identity of this "concerned individual" to Ms. Payne only left the principal more suspect and he will be forced to reveal their identity in deposition or court which will ultimately lend itself to the truth about how this individual plaintiff actually viewed the photo to begin with. The truth is that the only person that would have had such a vendetta against her could only have been the one who perpetrated this unimaginably unjust termination, i.e. the principal himself. Perhaps the principal should have done his own due diligence contractually and legally before making such a drastic and impulsive decision. How is it possible that he stated that he consulted with the Superintendent regarding this issue prior to her dismissal, whereas, it is hard to believe that someone in that position would have encouraged or even permitted such action by firing this young woman without cautious deliberation regarding the legal ramifications that could result from such a decision? Realistically, how could a photo be posted on her account one evening (August 26th) and 12 hours later (August 27th), she was summoned, accused, convicted, and coerced into writing a letter of termination? I seriously doubt the principal's claim that he proceeded with the Schools Superintendent's blessing.
Due to this obvious breech of privacy on her behalf, most likely Facebook has systems in place via their server to basically trace the history of Ms. Payne's Facebook viewers and determine the perpetrator of this vindictive act. Therefore, this individual should be subject to legal action as well for the damages that they have caused Ms. Payne, as well as the principal personally and the Barrow County School System if the Superintendent was in any way involved in this horrific situation. It is my assumption that after Ms. Payne's three year tenure of employment, there would have been a precedence of having given her warning or other disciplinary action for some previous inappropriate behavior as well as documentation via unsatisfactory performance appraisals giving just cause that she was not competent as a high school English teacher based upon professional standards for that position and evidence that Ms. Payne has signed off on these disciplinary actions or performance appraisals that support your actions. Not to mention, the principal will have to provide his justification for not informing her of her legal right to choose suspension and appeal her dismissal based upon your accusations. Unless there are overriding factors that have not been addressed, his harassment and treats leading up to forcing her to write her own letter of resignation within minutes of your accusations of wrongful acts in your opinion should be recommended as grounds for the principal's subsequent dismissal a.k.a. firing from his position as Apalachee High School principal.

Who would have ever considered that if you fail to maintain amorphous professional standards of conduct in your free time in your private life, you could lose your job?An anonymous supporter of Ms. Ashley Payne
Posted by: robyngreen at Nov. 10, 2009 at 1:56:56 pm

So I went to go edit the word filter list to remove the b-word, at least temporarily, as it's just a bit absurd that this story mentions the term yet it gets censored out in the comments.

But it turns out we can only add words to the list, not remove or edit them. At least that's the way it appears from my admin panel.

Also some of these words that are being filtered are just bizarre. And it's not like I can post them here to give examples, they'd just be filtered ...
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: Open-Minded at Nov. 10, 2009 at 2:03:38 pm

I agree that this young lady should be given another chance. She should have been given a warning and not intimidated into resigning.

All teachers need to remember that it's what they do -- how they act -- that is the most powerful and lasting lesson student's receive. And this reminds me, how come so many police and sheriff's deputies ride down the highway at 70+ MPH w/o emergency lights on ... What lesson are they teaching?
Posted by: bct2009 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 2:04:36 pm

It will be interesting when the entire story comes out. Miss Payne may have graduated with honors, been raised in an ethical home, etc. But for whatever reason she was FIRED immediately. That makes no sense. There has to be more that hasn't been revealed. That Facebook post may be the tip of the iceberg.
Posted by: mjluvstj at Nov. 10, 2009 at 2:04:44 pm

Robyn you can s p a c e them :)
Posted by: captainbackhand at Nov. 10, 2009 at 2:10:14 pm

**** ** ****, *****!
Posted by: revdawg at Nov. 10, 2009 at 2:23:09 pm

Folks, she wasn't fired. She was asked to resign, which she did as a legal adult. I personally don't care for her example, but would not have called on her to be fired. I think the principal was trying to allow her to save face and not have to make a public defense of the matter. I may be wrong. That is simply my interpretation. I have know others to be asked the same, and they refused. They then paid the price in public and still were released.

We should all know after the Obama administration required all its potential employees to render their facebook and myspace account information that there would be much more scrutiny of the internet chat rooms, etc. in employment. After all they are the ones that don't want anyone listening to the enemy over the phone.
+ 3 Rating
Posted by: prayerworks at Nov. 10, 2009 at 2:25:52 pm

I have friends that work in Barrow County schools and they have been told they should delete their Facebook pages because of this nonsense. Apparently, the principals and administrators in Barrow County have enough time to check Facebook for employees' pages AND supervise their teachers and parapros. If these administrators don't have enough work to do in supervising teachers on the job, perhaps THEY should be fired.
Posted by: ThreeDollarBill at Nov. 10, 2009 at 2:27:34 pm

FWIW, the fact that she resigned totally eliminates any claim.

If she was truly unaware of her rights (which is pretty unbelievable), it's her responsibility to know them, just like any other law.

Makes for a good story, but the lawsuit is DOA.

This isn't exactly ground that's never been plowed before.
Posted by: babygirl1996 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 2:34:54 pm

Pricipals have to go through ALOT to get rid of teachers!
This is stupid! She has a right to have a life outside of school! Teachers are allowed to have fun(despite other's beliefs). She also has a right to have Facebook, Myspace or whatever she wants. ITS HER RIGHT. That principal KNEW he was wrong by telling her to resign.
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: dinodungdan at Nov. 10, 2009 at 2:36:09 pm

What is the old saying? Complete power corrupts completely? Get rid of the principal.
Posted by: TimesLikeThese at Nov. 10, 2009 at 2:44:54 pm

There is no such thing as privacy on the internet.
Posted by: one2dream at Nov. 10, 2009 at 3:10:53 pm

What did she do that was illegal? She's 24. She can legally drink. She said the word "*****" which was not used in a derogatory manner. Please tell me what she did wrong? Does Barrow County suspend every student that is heard muttering a cuss word? I think not, otherwise I doubt they would have many students OR teachers left!
-1 Rating
Posted by: ThreeDollarBill at Nov. 10, 2009 at 3:26:08 pm

She didn't do anything wrong, but for everyone screaming "she's an adult", that's exactly right, and unless she can prove some disability (mental illness, involuntary intoxication, and so on) because she is an adult, she is charged with knowing her rights and being bound by her decisions. SHE RESIGNED. Case dismissed, end of story.
Posted by: mtnbranch at Nov. 10, 2009 at 3:41:45 pm

Facebook scares people in Barrow because it connects them to the real world.
Posted by: ThreeDollarBill at Nov. 10, 2009 at 3:43:34 pm

That's scary, that you think Facebook is a connection to the real world.
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: mpsrn60 at Nov. 10, 2009 at 3:45:54 pm

How is it that the President of our Country, Obama, can admit that he took illegal drugs as a teenager and use profanity, describing the entertainer, Kanye West, as a jack ***** when commenting on the behavior of an entertainer that was leaked to the media a few weeks ago (which are both acts that are extremely morally and ethically objectionable) and not get fired a.k.a impeached, yet, an innocent, young woman of legal age photographed with beverages in both hands, in a foreign country far away from possibility that her students could witness, and during summer break fall subject to such scrutiny and judgment?
Posted by: JFKDawg at Nov. 10, 2009 at 3:52:23 pm

If you are coerced or intimidated under duress to resign, it won't matter that resigned versus being fired.
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: ThreeDollarBill at Nov. 10, 2009 at 4:08:05 pm

"If you are coerced or intimidated under duress to resign, it won't matter that resigned versus being fired."

Sorry, wrong answer.

No pie for you.
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: peachy13rn at Nov. 10, 2009 at 4:24:17 pm

I am so tired of this bull****. What we do in our private lives is private....unless we are out breaking the law, bribing police officers, molesting children, beating up our elders, etc, then what we do after hours if off limits to the disciplines of our profession. This is about as freaking ridiculous as the manager of the ER at Athens Regional saying that we are accountable for our actions outside of work when we are off duty. If I do my job while I am clocked in and don't violate any professional standards or duties while ON THE CLOCK, then what I do off the clock is none of anyone's business. We hold all these teachers, nurses, professionals accountable for behaviour outside of work hours, but yet we'll allow children to have babies and live off welfare; we'll allow parents to let their children run wild in our schools and kill the very teachers that are trying to help their child; and then we dare to point the finger at crap like this. I hope the teacher wins her lawsuit.
Posted by: TedStriker at Nov. 10, 2009 at 4:50:56 pm

I don't mind paying school taxes until I hear about something like this occurring. This principal should lose his job and the teacher should be reinstated.
Posted by: OfficeUseOnly at Nov. 10, 2009 at 7:42:44 pm

The proposed policy from Barrow County Schools...

I hope she wins the lawsuit. Ashley was a dedicated teacher, the school and students are not for the better in losing her. Teachers are people, what we do outside the classroom (unless illegal) should not be anyone's concern but our own. I think the wrong people were fired in this situation, maybe now the right people will be placed on the spotlight. You have my support Ashley!!!
+ 2 Rating
Posted by: levelheaded at Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:12:19 pm

This is one situation that I cannot refrain from commenting. I support Ms. Payne 110%!!! While I don't know her personally, I have talked to people who do. She appears to be an exemplary citizen and a very good teacher. She seems to be a responsible adult and was not depicted in any situation that was vulgar or promiscuous or that jeopardized the well-being of any of her students.

No wonder good teachers are hard to find. It's just like being in politics or religion -- you live in a fishbowl and are subject to the scrutiny and judgement of others, however skewed it might be. I am speaking from experience being retired from both arenas. I have seen students who come from homes that are unworthy for rats to inhabit, yet their parents are the first ones to say "their teacher has it in for them". These same parents are often living a drug or alcohol induced life and rarely have enough sober time to give to their children to promote their education.

Also, politics definitely comes into play. In Barrow County, as other rural counties in north Georgia, we don't have the funds or the tax base like Oconee to fund all the needed SAT coaches, tutors and such. But there are plenty of heavy-handers who control all areas of the community, whether it be civic, education, church or job-related. We all know who they are...but are too afraid to name names for fear of family and friends losing their jobs.

I hope someone who knows Ms. Payne personally will open a legal fund at a local bank. I certainly will be happy to contribute!

Good luck, Ashley!!!
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: Starlights at Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:13:30 pm

This sounds like a case where the school went just a bit too far. Having a personal life is not a crime, even for a teacher. I think the one glaring fact here too is that her page was set to private. She took the proper precautions any reasonable person would. It's like locking your bedroom door and having a stranger peer through your window who then tells your boss who then decides your private life is unacceptable and you will resign or pay the price, for having a beer? I applaud Miss Payne's bravery having the guts to stand up to the system. No one deserves to be treated this way for having a life outside of work, it's pretty sad when we live in country that affords us these rights and freedoms and they are trampled on be those who can't lighten up and have a little fun in their own lives. Here is a school district that apparently just drops the hammer on a teacher for having a personal life and yet they fail to even follow proper procedure themselves for looking into the facts of the matter. I am sure there is plenty some of these hypocrites that forced her out have done in their private lives much worse than posting a funny -G rated- picture on a face book page, a picture on face book? you deserve to lose your job over that? sheer overkill, pretty outrageous if you ask me, she should get her job back, a nice settlement for damages and a raise, nothing less.
Posted by: titoistheman at Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:14:26 pm

Just like the "Osborne" incident, this situation should have been handled by people with a "brain". Sit her down,in private,let her know what the issue is, write a "reprimand letter" and move on.
Now the tax payers of Barrow will be burdened with millions of dollars of new taxes from this judgment. (Which she WILL win.) Sometimes people need to sit down and relax. Allow a "situation" to pass for a few days, talk to others, including attorneys, and make the RIGHT decision, not one that makes them feel "empowered".
+ 1 Rating
Posted by: kdunbar at Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:28:37 pm

I am a teacher. I have a facebook page. It's private, and it'll stay that way. If I am going out to dinner with friends to celebrate someone's birthday and we have a drink, I am not going to worry about sharing the photos from the event with my friends b/c I might get fired from my job. That's ridiculous. If her page was private, they shouldn't have been able to see it. If she wasn't doing anything illegal, what's the problem?
Posted by: normaltowner at Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:53:51 pm

she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned sheshe resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she resigned she
Posted by: Thomas_Jefferson_Snodgrass at Nov. 10, 2009 at 9:40:55 pm

normaltowner, you don't think she was illegally coerced?
Posted by: ThreeDollarBill at Nov. 10, 2009 at 10:55:51 pm

"normaltowner, you don't think she was illegally coerced?"

No such thing. AGAIN she is an adult. Legally, you cannot "coerce" an adult (duress being the correct term) except in very limited circumstances involving diminished capacity, or a threat on the level of someone holding a gun to your head or the head of a family member. Just doesn't happen.

If "legally coerced" were a defense, half the car purchase agreements, and all the furniture contracts, would be voidable.

AGAIN, this is not a new or novel situation. Knowledgeable companies routinely try to get employees to resign on the threat of being fire, because if the employee resigns, the company gets out of paying unemployment benefits.

Just because some lawyer has some tale of woe, and just because the ABH needs to fill up some space, doesn't make a new, or novel, or even justicable legal issue.

If this is such a hot legal issue, why hasn't suit already been filed?

Posted by: bobbidyboo at Nov. 10, 2009 at 11:09:07 pm

Y'all deleted my post. Ain't y'all shame?
Posted by: MelissaJamesPO at Nov. 10, 2009 at 11:52:26 pm

As a certified educator in the state of Georgia, I will have to side with the teacher. She did not break the law, she deserves to have a life...outside her classroom. Also, I am now a probation officer and, I have had 7 teachers on for DUI and none of them lost their jobs. This is a desicion for the Professional Standards Commisson , and they will side with the teacher.
Posted by: spaceship at Nov. 11, 2009 at 12:07:23 am

My family owns a liquor store and teachers are our best buyers. please dont fire them!
Posted by: spaceship at Nov. 11, 2009 at 12:07:24 am

Response to bobbidyboo : Yes I'm 66 and have an 11 yr old in Barrow schools. Its known as a grandparent raising a grandchild d/t drug use of parents. There are a lot of us out here and someone has to protect the children. I should be on a beach in Cancun but so much for that. I have had permanant custody since she was an infant WITH the parents blessings - at least they were not too stoned that if they kept her she'd end up dead or worse. And yes - I am very active in her education and the schools. No school system is perfect but if you're in the school a lot, the teachers and principal get to know you and your child will do well... mine received the Presidental ( Obama) award for academic achievement for her hard work and keeping her grades up under adverse circumstances.
Posted by: realvoice at Nov. 12, 2009 at 5:32:10 pm

I am a current student at this school and feel this is a slap in the face to any teacher. I was a student of hers during my first year of high school, and nothing that she said or did gave me the impression that she ever deserved to get fired. These actions taken by my schools officials are saying that no teacher can have a life outside of school. She is over the legal age to drink, and should not have to hide. TEACHERS ARE PEOPLE, and that cannot be forgotten. As for the inappropriate language used on her facebook, just take a day and walk down our halls and listen, much worse is said by students.


School system responds to lawsuit by teacher
By Carman Peterson, Nov. 13, 2009 10:10 a.m.

The Barrow County School District filed a response Wednesday to the petition for a writ of mandamus, submitted by former Apalachee High School teacher Ashley Payne earlier this month.

While Payne alleges she was forced to resign after pictures of her holding alcoholic beverages on vacation and her use of the word "bitch" were found on her Facebook page, the school system maintains Payne’s resignation was voluntary. Her letter of Aug. 27 cites personal reasons for her resignation.

Payne is claiming, however, that AHS Principal David McGee encouraged her to resign or face suspension and termination, telling her "you can’t win this." Payne also claims she was never told of her right to a hearing and compensation, as provided by the Georgia Fair Dismissal Act.

The school system, represented by attorneys Wayne McLocklin and Robert Derrick, flatly denies any wrongdoing in the matter and has petitioned the court to dismiss Payne’s writ. The district also filed a counterclaim to cover the district’s legal fees.

In its written response, the district addressed Payne’s allegations paragraph by paragraph. Payne’s meeting with McGee and Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction Dorann Mansburger was admitted, as was the disapproval of Payne’s Facebook content. From that point, however, the accounts differ.

"Mr. McGee found [Payne’s] conduct to be unacceptable because specific instructions had been provided to teachers at Apalachee High School, including the plaintiff, which warned against unacceptable online activities," the report read. "Mr. McGee told [Payne] that she would be suspended and her conduct reported to the Professional Standards Committee. [Payne] asked if she could resign."

The report goes on to state that Payne "requested to submit the resignation and declined the opportunity to take more time to consider her decision."

Payne’s resignation was included as Exhibit A with the response. It reads simply: "I am resigning my position as Language Arts teacher at Apalachee High school for personal reasons. I am currently attending graduate school, and I plan to return to the teaching profession in the future."

Payne said Mansburger helped craft the letter and was careful not to mention the online controversy.

Payne’s letter could be the key to whether or not the district is in violation of the Fair Dismissal Act.

If Payne was coerced to resign, as she claims, she could be awarded a hearing before the Board of Education, backpay beginning at the time of her dismissal and continued compensation until the hearing.

If, as the district alleges, Payne "resigned from her position and [her] resignation was freely and voluntarily submitted," then Payne is not eligible to those rights.

In addition to its response to the writ of mandamus, the district has filed a demand for dismissal, asking that Payne’s request for a hearing be thrown out. The district states Payne has failed give proof for her petition for a writ of mandamus and also claims that Payne "knows the facts contained therein are patently false."

Finally, the district has filed a counterclaim for attorney’s fees and "such other relief as the court deems equitable ad proper under the circumstances."