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.
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
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.