Legal Issues of Slander and Libel that Affect Students and Teachers
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Some courts are ruling 'gay' is not slanderous

Some courts are ruling 'gay' is not slanderous | Legal Issues of Slander and Libel that Affect Students and Teachers |
One by one, courts around the country are deciding it’s no longer slander to falsely call someone gay — a measure of how attitudes are changing in the era of same-sex marriage and gays in uniform.
Whitney Wallace's comment, June 6, 2012 2:51 PM
As the issue of homosexuality and the rights it involves is coming more and more into the spotlight, it is important for teachers and students to understand the implications which rest on labeling someone as "gay". Some courts are ruling that gay is not slanderous, but not all. If the plaintiff can prove that the comments were made with malice or ill intent, the court may rule that gay is slanderous. In this specific case in NY they are following the legal principle that being gay is not a negative and does not negatively impact a person's reputation.
Vikki Howard's comment, June 17, 2012 5:28 PM
It is important to understand that our opinion as to whether calling someone "gay" is slanderous is irrelevant--it is up to the courts to determine application of this legal designation. Even though such baiting may be unethical -- it may not be legally wrong; One might argue that "it depends" --and that is certainly true, when the name calling lacks "truth" -- and, as you say, if the plaintiff can prove that the claims were made with malice harmed a persons reputation--all these tests must be passed. I like that way you concluded, that "in this specific case" the court ruled one way--it is not insignificant that this court ruled in this way, it will make future ruling more difficult to find another way--
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Victims of Cyberbullying Fighting Back in Libel Suits

Victims of Cyberbullying Fighting Back in Libel Suits | Legal Issues of Slander and Libel that Affect Students and Teachers |
When a Georgia middle school student reported to police and school officials that she had been bullied on Facebook, they told her there was not much they c...
Whitney Wallace's comment, June 6, 2012 3:00 PM
This case is extremely important in examining the extent of the school to protect its students beyond school hours. This case is suggesting that schools are responsible for students' actions and words outside of school. This case coincides with Layschock v. Hermitage School Distrtict (2006). Layschock was ruled in favor of after he made a spoof Myspace account mocking his principal. The courts ruled his parody was protected by his freedom of speech. Is cyberbullying freedom of speech? Personally I think not. Statement made online are equally as damaging to reputations as those made verbally or in print. I will be very interested to see whether this spoof Facebook is labeled libelous cyberbullying or freedom of speech.
Vikki Howard's comment, June 17, 2012 5:33 PM
consider the language in the Layshock case--why--did the court rule that a spoof was not damaging--was it related to the conclusion that a reasonable person would view of spoof as "humor" which a reasonable person would not consider truth; and whether as a public official, the principal is less protected from offensive communicatives than those not considered public officials. Again--there is a difference between legal and ethical.
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Slander, Libel, and You. pdf

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me… at least that’s the lesson that we try to
teach our children. In reality, name-calling
can not only hurt your feelings, it can
also damage your professional standing
and do irreparable harm to your reputation.
For the school administrator, defamatory
comments can breed disrespect and ultimately
affect your ability to manage effectively. By
undermining your authority, such statements can make
it very difficult to maintain control within the school
In order to understand the legal impact of disparaging
remarks, we first need to define exactly what constitutes
libel, slander, defamation and harassment, and what
remedy, if any, is available in law to prevent such
The verb, to defame, means to attack the good reputation,
or to speak ill of an individual. Therefore, any
statement, whether written in the form of a letter, e-mail
or petition, or spoken, either falsely stated or directly
implied, that injures an individual’s reputation or exposes
him or her to public contempt is considered defamation
of character.
When the defamation is verbal, it’s called slander.
When the defamatory statement is written, it’s considered
Harassment is the repeated act of making libelous or
slanderous statements with the goal of tormenting, irritating
or otherwise attacking an individual, usually for
the purpose of damaging that individual’s reputation.
Fortunately, as a CPCO member you are afforded legal
assistance to protect your valuable reputation and provide
immediate assistance in the event that you are
The process begins with a call to the Telephone Legal
Advisory (TLA). This service is also part of your Legal
Expense Benefits Plan, (which includes employment, disciplinary
issues, Ontario College of Teachers complaints,
etc.) and is available Monday to Friday, from 9:00 am to
5:00 pm. A call to the toll-free number (1-888-STERLON)
will put you in immediate contact with a lawyer
who can help determine if you are indeed a victim of
defamation or harassment. In some cases, this can be
very difficult to prove without eyewitnesses or written evidence
to corroborate your claim. Once merit has been
established, a file will be opened and you will be advised
to alert your school board of the civil issue at hand and,
wherever possible, work collaboratively with them.
A lawyer will be assigned to represent you, and provided
that the statements are indeed defamatory, your
lawyer will arrange for the service of a demand letter to
the offending party. The intent of this letter is to notify
the offending party that you require an immediate
retraction or cessation of any defamatory or harassing
action. In most cases, the sending of such a letter successfully
resolves the issue.
In the event, however, that the offending party persists in
his or her actions, or the statements are so libelous that a
letter of apology is insufficient, then CPCO will need to
determine if your case merits additional legal services. In
law, you can pursue civil litigation for defamation, seeking
injunctive relief and/or damages. Such cases are complex,
lengthy, costly and unpredictable.
Slander, Libel and You!
By: Suzanne Elston, STERLON Underwriting Managers Ltd.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But names will never hurt me…”
All requests for this additional assistance are assessed
based on the following criteria:
! A report is received from your assigned lawyer on
the merits of your case.
! An estimate of the potential costs is considered.
! Does the matter benefit the entire membership if it
is pursued successfully?
! Are there any prospects of recovering damages or
other remedy?
! Is the case reasonable in all the circumstances?
In the event that these criteria are met, a lawyer will be
authorized to take such further steps as deemed appropriate
in the given situation. This may include mediation
and/or litigation. Since this is a discretionary benefit,
support can be withdrawn by CPCO at any time and
the merits of the matter are constantly monitored.
Here are a few examples of situations where school
administrators have required legal assistance:
! A retiring staff member sends out an e-mail to her
teaching colleagues, listing the “Top 10” reasons why
she disliked her former principal and vice-principal.
! A school council member publicly accuses the principal
of misappropriating school funds at a school
council meeting.
! A “Letter to the Editor” in the local newspaper
demands the removal of an existing school principal,
attributing erroneous facts and behaviour to the
If you think that you may be a victim of libel or slander, or
if you are being harassed, here’s a list of dos and don’ts:
! Contact your supervisory officer and/or school
! Keep written records of all correspondence relating
to the issue, including e-mails, petitions and letters.
! Call the police if you feel that you are in immediate
personal danger.
! Take steps to address the behaviour. It may very
well get worse if you ignore it. Phone 1-888-STERLON
for immediate assistance from a lawyer.
! Ignore it.
! Contact the offending party directly.
! Reply directly to a “Letter to the Editor” or other
public document in which you have been defamed.
! Try to mediate the situation by addressing the matter
at your school council meeting, in the school
newsletter, or on your school’s website.
! Respond in-kind to any accusations or slanderous
! Threaten, either verbally or in writing, the offending
! Solicit personal support from parents and staff.
For more information about your Civil Legal Services
Plan or your Legal Benefits Plan, contact STERLON at
1-888-STERLON (1-888-783-7566).
This article was prepared by STERLON Underwriting
Managers Ltd., the administrators of CPCO’s legal
plans, as a service to CPCO members.
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Whitney Wallace's comment, June 6, 2012 3:04 PM
This article is very important for teachers and students to examine because it defines slander and libel and provides appropriate steps to be taken when it happens. This article highlights definite explanations of slander and libel under the law. It also explains when it can occur. It outlines the steps taken if something similar to Fairbanks Publishing Co. v. Pitka after a teacher was libeled in print.
Vikki Howard's comment, June 17, 2012 5:34 PM
I agree--and you summary of this article is excellent Whitney!
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Schools in Facebook battle

Schools in Facebook battle | Legal Issues of Slander and Libel that Affect Students and Teachers |
Parents who slander school principals on social media websites such as Facebook are being hit with letters threatening legal action.
Whitney Wallace's comment, June 6, 2012 3:07 PM
This case is very similar to the Georgia case mentioned on this page. Parents are using Facebook to express their opinions about school officials. In this case, the school is considering Facebook posts to be as libelous as written letters. This case is not supporting that online posts are freedom of speech. I agree with the school in that online statements are out there for everyone to see and are libelous to the reputation of the school and its members.
Vikki Howard's comment, June 17, 2012 5:36 PM
This will be very interesting to see where it goes--I suspect--not far, as the courts have generally been loath to limit first amendment rights on social media...what legal principles/court cases could you find that supports you position that such posts may be considered libelous?