Educator Sues Students for MySpace Defamation




Educator Sues Students for MySpace Defamation

An assistant principal is suing two 16-year-old students for defamation on the internet, and their parents for not adequately supervising the students’ MySpace use.

The assistant principal of Clark High, Anna Draker, filed a civil lawsuit against the two students – Benjamin Schreiber, and Ryan Todd – and the boys’ parents, alleging libel, negligence, defamation, and negligent supervision over a web page the teens posted on MySpace.com – a free public website popular among young people.

Benjamin also faces criminal felony charges.

“This is the most serious, most concerted effort that I’ve seen a teacher or school administrator undertake involving a posting on MySpace,” said Steve Jones, author of “CyberSociety” and professor of communication at the University of Illinois Chicago.

“This is pretty remarkable,” he said. “I think a lot of people will be watching this.”

In April, Draker discovered that someone created a page on MySpace using her name and a picture taken from the school website. The page was written as though Draker herself had posted it. According to Draker’s attorney, Murphy Klassing, the page contained defamatory, lewd, and obscene comments, graphics, and doctored pictures.

The page included lewd, obscene, and suggestive messages in response to the page content from nearby people Draker did not know.

The web page existed for a month before a dean at Clark High found it and notified Draker of its existence.

“By that point, she had no idea how many people in the world had seen it,” Klassing said. “We do know it had been seen by numerous individuals, including many students at Clark.”

MySpace.com promptly removed the page when Draker notified them that the page was not posted by her.

Benjamin Schreiber, who admitted to creating the page on Ryan Todd’s computer, has been suspended for three days. Todd was forced to attend a parent conference. The police department was called upon to investigate the situation and convey their findings to the district attorney.

The lawsuit mentioned that both of the students involved in the suit have a history of disciplinary problems at the school, and that Draker has disciplined Todd various times.

According to Klassing, Draker wants the students to face consequences. She seeks damages of an unspecified amount for mental anguish, emotional stress, court costs, and lost wages, but Klassing said that, “primarily, her goal her is accountability.”

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