Teacher Fired for Drinking on Facebook Isn't the Real Problem

wine corkThis just in. Parents don't want human teachers anymore. The ideal teachers are not human. Oh, they put their pants on just like you do. They eat. They sleep. But they never drink. Oh no, never. Uh uh.

OK. OK. That's a lie. We all know teachers love their wine as much as the rest of us. They put up with our kids all day. They deserve it. But there's a disturbing trend afoot, and the story of 24-year-old high school English teacher Ashley Payne should be a warning sign for parents.

See, Payne was fired by her school district for being a bad influence to kids. Her big mistake was posting a photo of herself from her summer vacation (read: not during school time) on her Facebook page. In it, she's smiling and holding aloft a glass of wine in one hand, a Pilsner glass of beer in the other.


Although the page was marked private, somehow it got leaked anyway, and a parent lodged a complaint. Payne is currently fighting with her Georgia school district over what was, in effect, her firing for this "egregious" act.

Her story is being cast as a problem with Internet privacy. I see something more. Parents are terrified of alcohol. But instead of talking to their teens about it, they're passing the buck. And so teachers are being penalized for being, well, human beings.

In Payne's case, it was a ridiculously innocuous photo on her private Facebook wall (where students were not allowed, by the way). But the next step is to keep teachers locked away inside their own homes. They can't go out to eat like the rest of humanity because what if a teen is out to dinner with Mom and Dad and sees Mrs. Jones across the way, enjoying a gay old Valentine's Day with her husband with a very responsible single glass of pinot noir? And forget a run to the supermarket to stock up on beer for the neighborhood barbecue. My child might be the checkout boy that day. You can't possibly expect me to teach him that purchasing massive quantities of alcohol does not necessarily mean you are going to single-handledly drink said massive quantity.

Teachers have some of the most constant contact with our teens on a day-to-day basis. They have a real opportunity to impact our teens positively, especially at an age when kids are moving farther from mom and dad and are more willing to take another adult's viewpoint. But what makes them so good with our kids is the breadth of experience they bring to the job. They're not automatons but human beings, who have real lives outside the walls of a high school.

At some point, parents need to realize that teachers can only do so much for kids. We need to pick up the slack too. And if that means teaching our kids that Ms. Payne is a responsible 24-year-old legally having a drink on her summer vacation, that's a parent's responsibility.

What would you have done if this was your child's teacher?

Image via Derek Gavey/Flickr

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