Defamation and Teaching
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Defamation and Teaching
Can You Feel the Pain of Defamation?
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Former Coach Suing For Slander - KTUL (blog)

Former Coach Suing For SlanderKTUL (blog)Harris accuses former Athletic Director Stephanie Spring, former Assistant Athletic Director Jon Wheeler and current Assistant Athletic Director Latricia Pruitt of slander and libel.
Raena Domme-Cleveland's comment, February 12, 2012 11:17 PM
In this case, a former teacher and coach was suing the former athletic director and current athletic director for both Libel and Slander. The former coach alleges that these individuals spread rumors and lies about him causing him harm. The alleged activities occurred while the school board was trying to decide whether or not to name a new field house at the High School after the coach in his honor. The results of this lawsuit are not in as of yet, but it's interesting to note that even though the coach is no longer active and the assistant athletic director is no longer active, claims can still be made for both the written ( libel ) and oral ( slander ) claims of defamation. It's something to be cognizant of even after you retire, whether you're a teacher or a member of the board.
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Raena Domme-Cleveland's comment, February 12, 2012 11:27 PM
Another interesting law suit relating to slander specifically is Connell vs Ammons. Here, the professor states in his complaint that "Defendant Ammons in bad faith and out of ill will, intentionally, recklessly, willfully and wantonly created almost two dozen false and pretextual statements and widely published these defamatory falsehoods without privilege in an attempt to destroy the plaintiff's professional reputation and violate his academic freedom in the classroom as a respected criminal law professor," . This statement sums up pretty well what some of the pertinent issues are to having a valid claim of Slander. A good read and viewable at:

Vikki Howard's comment, February 18, 2012 2:58 PM
Great case(s)--this is a good example of the type of behavior that can lead to defamation--destroying the professional reputation of a party--a two-fer also with the slander/libel case re: Ammons--we tend to think that this issue is remote in education...yet it is increasingly relevant--particularly because of ubiquitous technology
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College dean's libel suit against school paper dismissed | Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

College dean's libel suit against school paper dismissed | Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press | Defamation and Teaching |
See it on, via Libel and Slander Affecting Students and Teachers...
Raena Domme-Cleveland's comment, February 12, 2012 11:59 PM
Here a college Dean sued the school paper for Libel. A reporter for the school paper had written an article which alleged that the Dean had made racial slurs and anti semitic statements to a student there. The student was quoted and the story included quotes and opinion from other faculty members. The dean indicated that the reporter should've allowed him to rebut the statements in the story, the reporter indicated that they'd made attempts before to get statements from the dean and he either refused to give a statement or referred the journalists to his lawyer. In this lawsuit (Lewis v. University Chronicle; Media Counsel: Mark R. Anfinson, Minneapolis 2006) Judge Boland ruled that "this didn't rise to the level of "reckless disregard" and added that public figures shouldn't gain the right to sue for libel "by merely choosing to make themselves unavailable for comment." His reference here to reckless disregard stems from a case relating to the 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964). Wikipedia sums it up well in that " The Supreme Court held that when a publication involves a public figure, in order to support a suit for libel, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the publisher acted with "actual malice," meaning that the publisher knew of the falsity of the statement or acted with reckless disregard as to the truth of the statement. " This lawsuit reinforces the first amendment freedoms and restricts public figures abilities to pursue a claim for written and alleged libelous materials.
Vikki Howard's comment, February 18, 2012 3:07 PM
excellent selection in this case which helps to interpret defamation cases --also, understanding the application of the Sullivan and First Amendments tenets shows sophisticated legal analysis
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Judge: Sex life of ex-Syracuse coach's wife irrelevant in slander case - Chicago Tribune

Judge: Sex life of ex-Syracuse coach's wife irrelevant in slander case - Chicago Tribune | Defamation and Teaching |
Judge: Sex life of ex-Syracuse coach's wife irrelevant in slander caseChicago TribuneNEW YORK, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Allegations that the wife of former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine had sex with several Syracuse basketball players...
Raena Domme-Cleveland's comment, February 12, 2012 11:05 PM
This is an interesting case where defamation is a primary focus of the claim brought by two former athletes. The athletes alleged that the assistant coach ( coach Fine ) sexually abused them while they were students at Syracuse. Coach Fine was eventually let go as a result of the allegations, but the defamation claim isn't stemming from the abuse itself. The lawsuit is filed against the former head coach of Syracuse who made a public statement in which he called the two boys liars. He later apologized for the remarks but a suit was still brought against him. The boys, in their defamation suit, were seeking to gather information relative to the sex life of Fine's wife, indicating that the head coach likely knew about some of her alleged exploits with players as well. The judge denied the boys motion for that information. The interesting part of this case here in some respects is that even though the head coach was being sued for defamation by calling the boys liars, even though he was not directly involved. Another interesting lawsuit relative to defamation is Fairbanks Publishing Company vs. Pitka, Alaska 1962.
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Vikki Howard's comment, February 18, 2012 3:10 PM
Syracuse (and Penn State) are at the center of allegations that clearly pose the risk of defamation -- the fact that the coach retracted his comment does not help him--though I would be surprised if a court would prosecute someone who makes such a vague statement (liars) what way is the Pitka case helpful here?
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Five NC teen charged with cyber-bullying on social networking sites - Gaston Gazette

My Fox 8Five NC teen charged with cyber-bullying on social networking sitesGaston GazetteSeveral teens were charged Thursday with cyber bullying for incidents that allegedly took place on social networking sites.
Raena Domme-Cleveland's comment, February 13, 2012 12:17 AM
Cyber Bullying is becoming more and more common these days and can be considered a form of defamation. When boiled down defamation occurs when someone causes harm or embarrasment to someone else which can effect their reputation. Slander is essentially when this occurs through spoken word in public or to numerous people. Slander does not occur if, as an example, a student tells a teacher and only the teacher that they heard a rumor that that teacher was dealing drugs. It could become slanderous if the student got on the PA system at the school and told everyone that this teacher was dealing drugs. Libel is similar except that the statements are made permanent by having them written or recorded in some format. The student could write a letter to that teacher and only that teacher referring to them as a drug dealer. This is protected speach under the 1st amendment to the constitution, but if the student were to post it on Facebook, Twitter and put an article in the paper stating that, there's a chance that it could be considered Libelous. Cyber Bullying is a fairly new portion of the law with the advent of all the social networking sites. In this case, the defendants are alleged to have taken photos from the plaintiffs facebook accounts and set up a fake account and included a photo of the juvenile in a bra and underwear which could be considered embarrassing to most.
There another interesting lawsuit which as yet to be resolved where the parents of a minor are suing other juveniles for defamation. The link is provided here:
Vikki Howard's comment, February 18, 2012 3:20 PM
This is a very timely case--did you find if "embarrassment" rises to the level of libel? Do you think the youth in this case are vulnerable? why or why not?
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Third of teachers 'cyberbullied'

Third of teachers 'cyberbullied' | Defamation and Teaching |
Teachers as well as children are the victims of online bullying with parents responsible for a quarter of the abuse, according to a study.
Raena Domme-Cleveland's comment, February 13, 2012 12:46 AM
" Surprise, surprise surprise " as Private Gomer Pile used to say, students are not the only ones who are cyberbullied; teacher are as well. A 2011 survey conducted by Plymouth University found that 35% of all teachers were being Cyberbullied and of that figure 60% were women. Of all those bullied, roughly 25% came from parents of students and the rest from students themselves. If you become a teacher be prepared for this possibility. Since most social networking sites are posted online for all to see and are written, they might be considered a libelous form of defamation. There's an interesting lawsuit where an assistant principal is suing two students for supposedly creating a fake my space page on the internet purporting to be the assistant principals page. On it they're alleged to have written lewd, embarrassing and false information. In the end, the state court ruled against the assistant principal outlining "that because the "exaggerated and derogatory statements" included on the MySpace website were not assertions of fact that could objectively verified, they were not defamatory as a matter of law." Drake vs Schreiber 2006. More details of this case are available at:
Vikki Howard's comment, February 18, 2012 3:22 PM
Excellent case and use of the Drake case for interpretation--this issue is so important--your statistics are very disturbing--as a reflection of the lack of civility in our society
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Maryland defends student's right to privacy on social media

Maryland defends student's right to privacy on social media | Defamation and Teaching |
Maryland defends student's right to privacy on social media (New post: Maryland defends student's right to privacy on social media
Raena Domme-Cleveland's comment, February 13, 2012 12:55 AM
Here's another interesting look at social media and rights to privacy as guaranteed under the 1st amendment of the U.S. Constitution. There apparently is a practice in some locations where schools, and especially sporting programs are requiring students to provide access to students private social media to ensure that they are not posting indecent or improper items which could embarrass the institution. The state of Maryland introduced Senate Bill 434 which in effect states that post secondary schools can't require students as a part of admission to the school to provide password information or access to those accounts or provide them with a way to monitor them. Although the statutory law doesn't specifically relate itself to the 1st amendment, the connection appears to be there. An actual reading of the law is available at:
Vikki Howard's comment, February 18, 2012 3:24 PM
yes..good point--and reference to first amendment rights--the defamation epidemic online is a cancer to human relations--and yet, we really cannot go down the road of invasion of personal privacy as a means of curbing this behavior...this requires a massive concerted social effort--which I don't see happening any time soon
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Harmless Joke or Cyber-Bullying?

Teenage girls turn "mean girls" while typing away at a café
Raena Domme-Cleveland's comment, February 13, 2012 1:18 AM
This YouTube clip provides some good clips of a documentary of Cyberbullying in action. If the "ugly survey" was actually posted at that time it's possible for it to qualify as a libelous defamation. As a teacher we should be aware that this kind of thing happens and be prepared to visit with students about it. Although we shouldn't probably be giving any advice as to whether or not it qualifies as defamation of any kind, we should at least be aware of it's existence and be prepared to visit with our students about it. It might not even be a bad idea to let the students know that there are laws in some states specifically relating to cyberbullying that can be criminal in nature as well as those that can result in civil lawsuits and parents can even sometimes be sued too. There are several instances where students sue for defamation and as of now the courts are struggling to define when statements are pure opinion or assertions of fact to be considered libelous.
Vikki Howard's comment, February 18, 2012 3:27 PM
I agree--a major part of the solution to cyberbullying may be in educating students--not just to put the fear in children, but to teach students alternatives to verbal violence and social cohesiveness
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UPDATE: Teacher Fired for Relationship with Ex-student Sues ...

UPDATE: Teacher Fired for Relationship with Ex-student Sues ... | Defamation and Teaching |
Robert Schanne, fired in January 2011, wants reinstatement, back pay and damages.
Raena Domme-Cleveland's comment, February 13, 2012 2:05 AM
Here a teacher was fired by the school board for having had a relationship with a student, or as the teacher alleges, a former student. The teacher claims the relationship didn't start until after she graduated from the school. He claims the school didn't give him a chance to defend himself and with the firing and he claims he's unable to work anywhere now considering the boards decision and the publicity. He's alleging defamation and the information gathered doesn't spell out exact details, but it's likely that he'll pursue at least a claim for libel if not slander. It seems fairly obvious that having a relationship with a student or even a former student could present some pretty significant issues for a teacher to begin with. At issue here will probably be whether or not the statements the board alluded to were factual or not, whether or not they were malicious in intent, whether or not the teacher qualifies as a public figure, and whether or not there is some amount qualified privilege available to the board. Another interesting case is where a teacher is being sued for posting pictures of a student on Facebook. In essence here the students mom had taken the child to have her hair done with a bunch of jolly ranchers tied into the braids. The teacher took a photo, posted it and then the teachers friends made fun of the student. The parent is suing for negligent infliction of emotional distress ( which will likely have some elements of defamation there such as libel ). This appears to be a new case and it's not been decided as yet, but the information can be found at the following link:
Vikki Howard's comment, February 18, 2012 3:33 PM
Two very different cases are also important--in the case of teacher fired for relations with students--I agree, material facts are the key; in the second--I think this teacher will have a hard time justifying making fun of a student --even on a private site...