A well-known social studies teacher at Dutch Fork High School – a government-run school located in northwest Columbia, South Carolina – is on the warpath after a crude Valentine’s Day meme featuring her name and likeness was published on social media.
In response to this semi-salacious meme, veteran teacher Kelly Payne Eckstrom – a former statewide GOP candidate and the new wife of Republican S.C. comptroller Richard Eckstrom – has reportedly threatened to refer the matter for criminal investigation, file lawsuits against those responsible for creating the controversial image and withhold letters of recommendation from students allegedly involved in distributing it.
How did we get here?
According to our sources, students at Dutch Fork have been entertaining themselves in recent weeks by sharing “a series of Valentine’s Day memes focusing on teachers and administrators.”
“Most were relatively witty and none I saw were crude or overtly disrespectful,” one parent familiar with the situation told us. “Apparently, they have been quite the hit with students.”
Is the meme featuring Eckstrom “crude or overtly disrespectful?” Let’s take a look …
(Click to view)
Posted by an anonymous Instagram user, the Valentine’s Day meme features a dated photo of Eckstrom (previously known as Kelly Payne) along with the caption “wanna ride the Payne train?” It also prominently depicts a “sweat droplets” emoji that is often used as a visual representation of the male orgasm.
Crude? Yes. Disrespectful? We would say so.
Witty? Eh …
Whatever we may think of Payne … err, Eckstrom … such a meme being circulated by students about their teacher is clearly inappropriate. And we certainly understand Eckstrom taking offense at it – and seeking some measure of accountability for those disseminating it.
Having said that, those who received Eckstrom’s response to the meme tell us they were every bit as shocked by what she had to say about the situation.
“Committing libel is against the law,” Eckstrom wrote in a message to her students. “These posts are damaging to a person’s reputation.”
Eckstrom went on to write that “the material posted on this instagram account (is) incongruent with what we stand for,” and that “by liking these posts, or following this account” students were acting in manner inconsistent with the school’s values.
Fair enough …
Eckstrom was just getting warmed up, though.
“I wouldn’t feel right about ever giving you a future letter of recommendation for college, scholarships, or job references knowing you have voluntarily associated yourself with this account,” she continued. “I will be reporting this account to SLED and I will prosecute the person or persons responsible for creating content that was meant to harm, embarrass and damage my reputation.”
SLED is a reference to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division, which often assists counties, school districts and municipalities in forensic investigations regarding sensitive matters such as this.
This news outlet obviously has plenty of history when it comes to covering the Eckstroms – dating back nearly a decade to when we first published Richard Eckstrom’s creepy texts and emails to Payne, his then-mistress (messages sent while the “family values” Republican was still married to his first wife).
Over the years, the Eckstroms’ tumultuous, metronomic relationship has produced all manner of newsworthy copy: Courtroom battles, police reports, allegations of sexually transmitted diseases, wedding rings for sale on Craigslist as well as a major campaign finance controversy (one which was ultimately resolved in Eckstrom’s favor).
In recent years, though, the Eckstrom drama has shifted over to other members of the comptroller’s family … including one story in which our news outlet’s founding editor, Will Folks, was falsely accused by the comptroller of fathering a child (his granddaughter) out of wedlock.
We have tried our best to ignore the whole family of late, although last month we did take note of the Eckstroms’ wedding after reporter Bristow Marchant of The (Columbia, S.C.) Statenewspaper filed a report about “a high-profile S.C. power couple” tying the knot.
Anyway, stay tuned … we have reached out to our sources with SLED about Kelly Eckstrom’s request for an investigation and we will certainly bring our readers any new information we have on that front (as well as her vow of litigation against the creator of the meme).
UPDATE: As of 11:00 a.m. EST on Wednesday, February 13 an investigatory request has not been received in this matter by SLED. We will certainly updated our readers in the event such a request is made.
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