Teen Takes Upskirt Photo of Teacher, and You Won’t Believe Who Got Blamed

The incident has some educators questioning the end of a ban against students carrying cell phones in New York City schools.

(Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Mar 17, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Nowadays, teachers shoulder plenty of responsibility for the problems in the nation’s public schools. Blaming an educator for a student’s poor reading skills is one thing—saying it's her fault that a student decided to take an upskirt photo of her is quite another.

But that’s the response of one New York City parent after her 15-year-old freshman son positioned his iPhone to snap a surreptitious photograph of his Spanish teacher’s crotch.

“The teacher was dressed inappropriately,” the mom told the New York Post. Clearly, that must also be why the teenager went on to share the upskirt image on Facebook.

The incident, which happened late last week at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, comes just after the end of the New York City Department of Education’s controversial ban on students having cell phones on campus. As of March 2, students at city schools are now allowed to bring phones onto the campus; however, the devices are supposed to be shut off and stay tucked away in backpacks or lockers during school hours.

“A lot of teachers are concerned about the lifting of the ban. It has really traumatized the teacher,” an anonymous staff member told the Post on Tuesday.

Another of Dewey’s employees told the paper that the problem isn’t kids having phones. “The rules are fine—some kids have bad manners,” said the staffer. A 2013 study from the Pew Research Center found that 78 percent of teens own cell phones, and 37 percent of those devices were smartphones. It’s likely that the number of smartphone-owning teenagers has grown since then, which points to the need for the parents who pay for those devices to spend some time educating their children on appropriate and inappropriate usage.

According to the Post, the teacher who was photographed is still showing up to work, but she’s understandably worried that the photo will continue to spread on social media. It turns out that the sharing of the pic is what led to the bust of the teen who took it. Some good-hearted Dewey students who saw the image of the teacher told the school’s administrators about it. The teen boy was sent to the principal’s office last Thursday. The school subsequently called the police, and city education officials launched an investigation.

The parents of the teacher have, according to the Post, threatened to sue the city, but legally, they may not have much of a case. In February, a 61-year-old Portland, Oregon, man was cleared of invasion of privacy and child sexual abuse charges he faced from an upskirt photo he snapped of a 13-year-old girl in a Target store. According to the judge, there was no nudity or sexual act involved, and there should be no expectation of privacy in a public place.

Similarly, last fall a Superior Court judge in Washington, D.C., also tossed out a case against a man who’d been taking upskirt pictures of women at the Lincoln Memorial. “This Court finds that no individual clothed and positioned in such a manner in a public area in broad daylight in the presence of countless other individuals could have a reasonable expectation of privacy,” wrote D.C. Superior Court Judge Juliet McKenna in her ruling, reported WJLA.

The punishment the student in New York City is facing remains unclear. Department of Education officials would only tell the Post that appropriate disciplinary actions have been taken. Meanwhile, most people are likely to find the student’s behavior troubling, and the mom’s blame-the-victim mentality is sure to anger educators and anti–sexual violence activists. It seems the students disagree with the parent’s opinion.

“She dresses normally,” one unnamed student told the Post about the teacher’s attire. “I mean, to me, she doesn’t stand out too much. She just looks young.”