By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - A 16-year-old South Carolina high school student was arrested on Friday on charges that he had distributed nude photos of a teacher that he copied surreptitiously from her cellphone, authorities said.
Police in Union, South Carolina, announced the arrest as the school district that employed the teacher suggested she had been partially responsible for the breach, accusing her of improperly supervising her students.
The teacher, Leigh Anne Arthur, resigned on Tuesday from the Career and Technology Center at Union County High School, a day after the teenager took the phone, which she had left on a desk while she went into the school hallway.
The student, who police would not identify because of his age, is being held on cyber crime and aggravated voyeurism charges at a state juvenile detention facility, said Sam White, police chief in Union, about 45 miles from Greenville.
Arthur, who police say is 33, told reporters that the student found nude photos that she had taken to give her husband, copied the screen shots with his own camera phone and distributed the images on social media.
"He knows right and wrong," she told a local television station. "We all make stupid decisions when we're 16."
The teacher said that the student opened up her photo library, took pictures of images using his own phone's camera phone and then sent the pictures.
On Wednesday, Arthur found hard copies of the photos in her mailbox with a harassing note, Union County Sheriff David Taylor said by phone. The sheriff's office has turned the photos over to the state police for fingerprinting, Taylor said by phone.
A forensic investigation of the teenager's phone by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division found that the photographs taken from Arthur's phone "were stored in a separate passcode-protected file that contained other photos of a sexual nature," Union police said in a statement.
The school district found fault with Arthur for allowing the student to gain access to the phone.
"Her failure to supervise her students along with allowing students routine access to her personal cellphone constitute an evident unfitness for Ms. Arthur to continue as a classroom teacher," District Superintendent David Eubanks said Friday in a statement.
Students this week started an online petition to support the teacher, who taught in the district for 13 years.
"Leigh Anne Arthur is the victim of a blatant attack of her privacy," the petition read. "We the students are left to believe that she has been forced to, or given little choice but to resign," the petition read.
As of Friday, the petition had more than 11,000 signatures.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and David Gregorio)