A week after nude pictures of an Israeli high school teacher were posted online, the mother of two plans to return to class Tuesday as debate here swirls over issues of privacy, law and digital decorum.
The woman, who teaches 12th grade at a privately run school in the city of Ashkelon, has filed a police complaint against a teenage student who allegedly posted the purloined pictures. An attorney for the teacher, whose name has not been disclosed publicly, said the school initially demanded her resignation while taking no action against the student. School officials contend the teacher was never suspended and was free to return to work.
The high school is one of several in Israel replacing textbooks with computer tablets. The teacher lent her tablet to a pupil who had forgotten hers. Another classmate snooping around the photos file found several nude pictures, snapped them with his cellphone camera and passed them on.
The teacher was further shocked to learn that images long deleted from her phone were on the school-issued device, which pulled them from the cloud as she synced it with her phone and electronic mail as instructed by the program’s computer managers, who reportedly did not mention any information sensitivity issues.
More than 6,800 people have signed an online petition supporting the teacher’s right to privacy and urging education authorities to discipline the violator and implement programs for preventing sexual harassment. “Teachers are people too,” the petition states.
The case may serve as a test for Israel’s recently tightened legislation on privacy protection and sexual harassment, both expanded to keep up with the challenges of fast-moving technology. In January, the parliament, or Knesset, voted to make online circulation of intimate images without the subject’s full consent an act of sexual harassment that can carry a five-year jail sentence.
Being a minor does not protect the 17-year-old student from criminal law, according to the teacher’s attorney, Orit Hayoun, who expects the police to investigate the case and the school to discipline the offender and stand by its employee.
Returning to work “takes a great deal of courage but sends a vital message to women,” the attorney said. “Offenders should hide, not the victims.”
The attorney said that although depicting his client naked, the pictures were innocuous. “We don’t live in the dark ages,” she said.
Batsheva Sobelman is a Los Angeles Times special correspondent.
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