Principal Loses Lawsuit Against Students Over Fake MySpace Profile

from the taking-the-pal-out-of-principal dept

You may remember a story we had last year about a principal at a school so overreacting to some students creating a fake MySpace profile for him that he took them to court. It's one thing to ask MySpace to take down such a profile or to discipline the students in school (both of which would likely backfire as well), but to take them to court seems extreme. And, apparently, the courts think so too. An appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that there was no defamation or intentional infliction of emotional distress in the case. Of course, the judge does also scold the kids for their "unacceptable" conduct. Luckily for the kids, "unacceptable" wasn't against the law in this case.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Michael Vilain, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 8:17am

    Maybe it's time for that principle to retire...

    Or get over it and get used to this Internet thing. Next thing you know, there'll be a web site devoted to "dumbassHSprinciple.com" with lots of stuff from all over the country from students posting and voting on if _their_ principle is a real dumb-ass. Sounds like a business plan to me.

    He's wasted how much of the school district's money fighting this?

     

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  2.  
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    Sierra Night Tide, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 8:18am

    a few days of detention or a day of suspension would have been enough to teach a lesson.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 8:29am

    Re:

    If they didn't build the site using school computers I think you'd have a hard time discipling them at school for something they did at home. As a parent, I would raise hell if they did try to discipline my kids for this.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 8:30am

    Cornfuzed

    I'm a little confused about this...

    Couldn't he just have quietly requested the page be removed due to violation of the MySpace TOS? After the Lori Drew incident it seems like they would be more than willing to remove the profile.

    Punishing the students in school is beyond her authority.

     

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  5.  
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    Duane (profile), Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 8:39am

    Nuh uh

    More and more, schools are being allowed by the courts to take action against students for Web sites and other actions done in places and forums totally separate from school grounds. This http://writ.news.findlaw.com/ramasastry/20060501.html is a link to a review of both sides of the issue, with examples.

    Sucks to be a kid today.

     

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  6.  
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    sicksteanein, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 8:40am

    Re: Maybe it's time for that principle to retire...

    dumbassHSprinciple.com I love unintentional genius.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 8:42am

    Defemation

    The principle had grounds for a lawsuit if he could prove defamation of character. Apparently he didn't because he lost.

    Just because "everybody" is doing it and it's "an internet thing" doesn't give the kiddies license to do whatever the hell they want.

    You have to be careful - even when sharing your opinion - because that opinion is not protected as free speech when it defames someone. I though TechDirt readers would understand this by now.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 9:07am

    It's spelled principal, idiots...

     

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  9.  
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    Casper, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 9:10am

    Re: Defemation

    The principle had grounds for a lawsuit if he could prove defamation of character. Apparently he didn't because he lost.

    Just because "everybody" is doing it and it's "an internet thing" doesn't give the kiddies license to do whatever the hell they want.

    You have to be careful - even when sharing your opinion - because that opinion is not protected as free speech when it defames someone. I though TechDirt readers would understand this by now.

    No, he didn't, and this is where people who don't understand what defamation really is, get in trouble. In order to defame him, they would have posted the information from their own personal view, as fact, then be proven wrong. In this case, he was the source of a joke, and the profile was quite obviously designed for entertainment, not fact. You can't sue people for making fun of you... at least you are not intended to win.

     

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  10.  
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    wasnt me!, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 9:13am

    this sounds fishy to me.

     

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  11.  
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    s0v3r1gn, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 9:20am

    Ok, should I point out that one lady is facing criminal charges based on making a fake mySpace profile. It violates thier terms of service and under certian laws that brands her a terrorist. /laugh

    How is this case really any different? The ends of the false profiles are different but the means are identical, and its the means that that woman is being tried under. I say send the kids to jail.



    If you could'nt read the sarcasim in this whole post you need to refrain from all human communication.

     

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  12.  
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    Bill, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 9:21am

    Re: Maybe it's time for that principle to retire...

    Michael:
    I see you didn't spend enough time in school. Maybe you didn't even complete High School. The head of a school is called a Principal. . . because he is a "pal" trying through his or her teachers to EDUCATE you. If any one put up a fake MySpace profile about me there would be Hell to pay. What is wrong with this country and the people under 30 to say that this ok. Kids in the Hood shoot people for less! You are the DUMB-ASS.

     

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  13.  
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    Bill, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 9:26am

    Re: Re:

    Dear Anonymous Coward:
    Your as dumb as Michael above. I bet if you use a computer at work you spend a lot of time on the Internet doing personal surfing; do you clock out or just consider it a benefit that your employer doesn't know he is giving you. A false document is a false document where ever you create it.

     

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  14.  
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    Thamios, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 9:36am

    Re:

    The entire problem with this is, if he suspended them, all they would have to do is go to the school board. Say hello to a new principal.

     

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  15.  
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    Hooshurdhadi, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 9:41am

    Hilarious

    @Bill: People like you are why pages like this are made. Cult leaders try to "EDUCATE" people too; it doesn't automatically make them saints. Overacting like this principal did (and apparently you would too) is only going to make the students make more fun of him. Suck it up and don't be such a wuss about what high school kids say. You're a tool...are you going to take me to court for pointing that out?

     

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  16.  
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    jfv2000, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 9:44am

    Re: Maybe it's time for that principle to retire...

    As I learned in elementary school the PrinciPAL is your PAL. The princiPLE of the matter is the reasoning and logic that make him so. VBG!!

     

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  17.  
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    Dan, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You're and not Your. Looks like someone missed that day of class :)

    My 2 cents. It all depends on what the content of the website contained. Were they being cute/funny or were they being malicious?! It matters.

    However, if they did violate the user agreement, they should pay with what the law allows.

    Now I am wondering, what would happen if the princiPAL did the same thing to a student? Curious as to what the reaction would be? I am.

     

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  18.  
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    Casper, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 10:03am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Your as dumb as Michael above. I bet if you use a computer at work you spend a lot of time on the Internet doing personal surfing; do you clock out or just consider it a benefit that your employer doesn't know he is giving you. A false document is a false document where ever you create it.

    Sorry Bill, but you are wrong. You are attempting to blend the lines between presenting false information as fact, with parody. There is a difference. Also, if that happens outside a school setting, you can not use your powers in school to respond. It becomes a civil matter, and as seen here, he can take them to court, contact MySpace, etc. He can not impose his will on a captive audience for something that happened outside that enviroment. Outside of class it's a personal issue, not an educational system issue.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 10:26am

    As Anonymous Coward pointed out the principal has grounds for a lawsuit, in the real world. I think he just approached it incorrectly. It is the educational system’s responsibility to provide the children with the knowledge and tools to exist in today’s world, so I would have set up an In school trial using a mix of students and Faculty as a jury of peers with perhaps a retired judge (I’m sure there is at least one on the school district who would donate an hour or two) to provide over the proceedings. This way the students will get a taste of what is in store for them should they try this kind of stunt in today’s society. Right now as it is, the students are allowed to do about anything they want and are able to hide behind the juvenile judicial system as they know the “State knows best for our kids” and unless there is money involved, the state is just going to side step the issue and get it out of their way. Sorry I feel this way but it’s just one more case of “ There is no Justus for the just, only for those who can afford it”

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 10:28am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Parody is covered under 1st amendment.

    http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/itdhr/0297/ijde/goodale.htm

    Have a nice day!

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 10:34am

    Re:

    Sorry AC, but even if they were all over 18, it's still not legal to sue over parody, nor is it illegal to create a parody for the purposes of such.

     

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  22.  
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    Annon Nerd, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 11:44am

    Re: Spelling

    THANK YOU!

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 12:34pm

    It's legal to sue anyone for anything. I can sue you for having brown hair (or whatever color your hair actually is, it offends me!). That doesn't mean the judge or jury will agree with me. But hell ya, I can sue you for ANYTHING. I'm thinking about suing you for saying "purposes of Such". The word Such is a sacred word in my religion and if you don't capitalize it, you are implying spite for my religion.

    That's right. And I could get court time. I'd be laughed out of the court room - but it's not ILLEGAL to sue for any reason whatsoever. So... stfu.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 12:52pm

    Of course we would hear in this same forum cries of outraged indignation and calls for the firing if not near lynching of the principal had the story been the other way around. Imagine the uproar had the principal created fake profiles for these students. Imagine the lawsuits against the principal, the school district, the school board members, the city, the state! had the principal commited such horror on these little smart-asses whom I'm fairly sure are viewed as just angelic by their parents.

     

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  25.  
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    Joe, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 12:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You're and not Your. Looks like someone missed that day of class :) You're = You are "Your" is an adjective indicating yourself as a possessor as in "...that your employer doesn't know he is giving you."

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2008 @ 5:50pm

    And of course, ethics and accountability get trumped by all things tech. And we wonder "what's wrong with the world." Pretty simple: no community to which members are held accountable.

     

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  27.  
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    Overcast, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 3:47am

    lol, Lawsuit about MySpace.

     

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  28.  
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    jessica, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 3:10pm

    myspace whats really legal...

    I wrote a personal opinion about something on myspace a fat cow from my work place printed it off and took it to work and they threateded to fire me! They claimed I was disrupting the workplace, I wasnt the fat cow that took it to work and showed the bosses~! so how about that~! Yet i was the one threatened with termination! what about the defamation of character. It states in our first amendment right to free press which i am sorry i feel that myspace is free press its for ideas, emotions and journaling... Thats what all a news paper is opinions, ideas, and journaling..!!!

     

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  29.  
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    Linda Neely, Sep 8th, 2008 @ 8:27am

    feelings

    The principal was lampooned by his students. His feelings got hurt. Or did they just land the harpoon too close to the truth? Since the site is down, be an adult move on. But as all administrators know, they are the POWER and they have your taxpayer dollars to shove it all down your throat. Kids are screwed today. We have all these new and innovative things and the schools want to just use plain old chalk. My child's school keeps sending me these "pats on their back" that my child did this that and the other thing with technology and he insists he was in school but didn't participate in any of it? Duh what is going on? They don't want any electronic images sent from the school. What is that they want to hide? Or are they afraid their wart's might show up?

     

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  30.  
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    Nunyabusiness, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 9:40am

    Yea, everyone over reaches to justify the blatant ruination of someone's reputation until it's theirs that gets ruined. The old excuse; "It's free speech". Like yelling "fire" in a movie theater, it may seem like your right but that does not make it the right thing to do and feeling the need to justify such actions makes the act that much more contemptible.
    No one has the right to get on My Space and pose as someone else to ruin their reputation all because they are a Principal or any other person the perpetrator hates. And people who do this are hateful.
    Even if the courts of society don't recognize a man's reputation being ruined by a hate filled little brat as assault, there are laws of truth that do and one important one is, "what goes around, comes around." What you do to someone will be revisited on you and most times far worse than anything you did. When that happens, and it will, just keep in mind all the attempts to justify slandering someone on my Space or any other place on the web you people posted here.
    This especially goes for the ones who did the slandering. When it's your turn, remember all your friends here that so callously defended your right to ruin someone else. Their words will be fueling others who will defend your attacker's right to slander you.
    I love the ones who slander others online and believe, "it will never happen to me". They scream the loudest when it's their turn.

     

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  31.  
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    Lisa, Jan 10th, 2010 @ 1:29pm

    Parents

    There was a time when a call home to Mom and Dad would have nicely taken care of such a little ploy. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case these days. Parents are just as likely to approve of their children's erratic behavior. I really don't agree with a lawsuit, but I understand what principals have to deal with in today's environment.

     

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