COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina teacher who resigned after a student spread nude pictures of her through text messages and social media sued her former employer Friday, saying she wants her dignity back after being forced to quit.
Attorneys for Leigh Anne Arthur sued the Union County school district in northwestern South Carolina for breach of contract and slander. She is seeking unspecified damages for her lost income, lost opportunities and harm to her reputation.
Arthur told The Associated Press she's been struggling since a student went through her cellphone while she was on hall duty between classes and found photos taken as a Valentine's Day gift to her husband. A 16-year-old student was charged earlier this month with a computer crime and voyeurism.
That student no longer attends Union County High School, district officials said Friday.
According to the lawsuit, the student found four "provocative pictures" that Arthur took of herself and used a separate phone to take photos of them and disseminate. It says an officer escorted Arthur off school grounds after district officials told her to submit her resignation. If she didn't, the lawsuit says, officials told her she would lose her job anyway and possibly her ability to teach anywhere in South Carolina.
"I have lost friends. My co-workers are a little afraid to speak to me," said Arthur, who's taught in the district since 2003. "It has taken a serious toll on me emotionally to power through this, but I'm back and ready for the next phase and want to make it right."
She said the mechatronics course she taught at the high school's vocational center has been temporarily shut down. The program is a blend of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering.
"I get really emotional when I think of the students in this program for the right reason," she said. "This is not my fault or the students' fault."
Arthur is not seeking her job back. She said she's not sure how many students and parents saw the photos.
Superintendent David Eubanks declined to further comment Friday on "pending legal action."
He referred to earlier statements that Arthur was not where she was supposed to be when her phone was accessed a month ago. He has also said that evidence indicates Arthur routinely left her cellphone on her desk for students to use, and no code blocked access.
Arthur said it was a mistake to leave the phone on her desk.
"I'm not perfect. I'm not a superwoman. I'm just a plain Jane person," she said.
She said she's humbled by the online petition that urges district officials to give Arthur her job back. As of Friday, there were 17,350 signatures on the petition saying Arthur was the victim of a "blatant attack of her privacy."
But Arthur said she has no immediate plans to return to teaching. She said she enjoys CrossFit training and would like to open a gym.
This story has corrected the spelling of the teacher's middle name to Anne.