Barrow County Schools denies forcing teacher to resign

WINDER -- Barrow County Schools contends a former teacher asked to resign after the school principal told her she would be suspended because of unacceptable content on her Facebook page, according to a court document filed Wednesday in Barrow County Superior Court.

In a response to a lawsuit filed by former Apalachee High language arts teacher Ashley Payne, Barrow County Schools rejects Payne's claim that she was forced to resign.

The school district's response states Payne was "informed that the district disapproved of her Facebook activity which promoted alcohol use and contained profanity and which was viewed by a student."

As a result of the "unacceptable online activities," Apalachee High School principal David McGee told Payne she would be suspended and her conduct reported to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, according to the court document. Instead, the filing states, Payne asked to resign.

In a lawsuit filed last month, Payne, 24, contends McGee told her if she did not resign, the school system would suspend her employment and "that any suspension would adversely affect her ability to teach in the future."

"Mr. McGee expressly stated Ms. Payne 'could not win this' and that resignation was the best option available to Ms. Payne," the lawsuit states.

The Facebook content in question includes photos depicting Payne holding alcoholic beverages while on vacation and a status update that used an expletive "in a playful manner," Payne's lawsuit states.

Payne's lawsuit states, "Mr. McGee even went so far as to have his administrator assist Ms. Payne in drafting the resignation (letter), so as to exclude any mention of the true reason Ms. Payne was forced to resign."

A copy of Payne's resignation letter dated Aug. 27 says she resigned for "personal reasons."

"I am currently attending graduate school, and I plan to return to the teaching profession in the future," the letter says.

Payne worked at Apalachee High for two years.