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School Official Sues Over MySpace Page 527

Posted by kdawson
from the their-kids'-keeper dept.
SoCal writes, "How much legal liability do parents have for what their kids do online? A lawsuit filed in Texas by a high-school assistant principal may give some answers. Some students she had disciplined set up a fake MySpace page in her name depicting her as a lesbian (which she happens not to be). In its coverage, Ars Technica notes that 'What sets this case apart from many other lawsuits filed over the content of blogs is that it doesn't target only the teenagers who created the site. It also argues that the parents were guilty of negligence by failing to supervise their children, and that they bear some of the responsibility for the defaming site.'" The article links the Media Law Resource Center's resource tracking more than 50 cases now in the courts nationwide, in which bloggers have been sued for libel and related claims.
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School Official Sues Over MySpace Page

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  • by Vinnie_333 (575483) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @04:47PM (#16413519)
    Not that there's anything wrong with that!
    • by Lazbien (788979) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @04:49PM (#16413543)
      Especially if they are depicting her as a .jpg
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:02PM (#16413769)
      Of course there is nothing wrong with lesbians, they're great! I'm a big fan, I have all their video's!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044)
      "Not that there's anything wrong with that!"
      How about depicting a lesbian as straight or by so she gets hit on by a bunch of men she isn't interested in?
      Or depicting a democrat as a Bush supporter.
      Or depicting a married person as single?
      A. Not everyone would agree with you that there is nothing wrong with being a lesbian. There is that respecting others belief thing. Obviously these kids didn't think that there was nothing wrong with it since they oviously thought it would be hurtful.
      B. Even if you thing th
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Unfortunately, I can find no "right to not be offended" for you anywhere in our Supreme Law of the Land. Wrong != illegal.

        Howver, the myspace posters are very explicitly given absolutely freedom of speech and print.
        • by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:33PM (#16414271) Homepage Journal
          But you don't have the right to pretend to be someone else.
          That IS NOT covered by free speech.
          • by Firehed (942385) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:43PM (#16414449) Homepage
            More importantly, it is covered by tort law - libel, to be specific.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by loraksus (171574)
              Yeah, and the law books are filled with cases where someone has sued because some 6th grader wrote "Mrs. Jekyll is a lesbian" on a note that gets passed around.
              Oh, wait...
        • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:33PM (#16414279)
          And they are absolutely subject to libel laws just like anyone else who knowingly publishes falsehoods without clearly noting it as parody in some fashion.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Skye16 (685048)
            Or opinion, correct? After all, if they said "it is my opinion she's a cum guzzling gutter slut", well, there's not alot she can do then, is there?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Blakey Rat (99501)
        Dude, relax. It's a joke from an episode of Seinfeld.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rkcallaghan (858110)
        LWATCDR wrote:
        How about depicting a lesbian as straight or by so she gets hit on by a bunch of men she isn't interested in?
        As a woman who has a personal ad on a homosexual site; I can tell you I get more replies from men to my lesbian ad than I do to the one on a larger, hetero site -- and the content of both profiles is the same. Same pictures, same text block.

        ~Rebecca
      • by budgenator (254554) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:42PM (#16415241) Journal
        Well concidering that it happened in Texas, at least the kids had enough restraint to have not claimed she was something really bad, like an athieist!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's about time. While I don't agree that the courts should be deciding cases on what amounts to a bunch of name-calling... it's good to see the possibility of holding parents accountable for their irresponsability with regards to their children. The government is getting too involved with banning activities for everyone just for the sake of protecting children because their parents refuse to.

    I think if parents started being charged with involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide when their kids go on s
    • by garcia (6573) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @04:59PM (#16413713) Homepage
      I think if parents started being charged with involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide when their kids go on school schooting rampages, you'd see more parents suddenly taking an interest in their children's lives and activities.

      While I agree wholeheartedly that parents should be held accountable, should be responsible for the proper upbringing of their children, and should be involved with their kids' lives I don't believe that it would change the fact that there are some seriously fucked up kids out there that think killing/harming others is the answer.
    • by rolfwind (528248) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:07PM (#16413841)
      And it is not the role of the public at large.


      It takes a tribe......

      I think all sides bear a responsibility.

      Holding the parents responsible in all cases is not good either. I have to admit, I was involved in shit my parents never got wind of between my 13th and 18th birthdays. And they were good parents.

      And here we are, at a geek forum, with many posters regularly poo-pooing the idea that their mother ever could use any flavor of linux because it's too hard, yet they should be savvy enough to know every website their kid inhabits and every thing they post.

      And that's figuring the kids aren't smart enough to swipe the cache.

      I have a feeling that routers/modems with harddrives that log everything that goes through them and presents the data in a easy to adminster HTML format may be in demand soon...... and I have no doubt the 13 year olds will pwn those things in short order.
    • You won't find me arguing that parents need to be held accountable for their inattention towards their children, but the issue here is less a criminal matter than a civil one. It's not "involuntary manslaughter," it's "involuntary libel"... or "negligent defamation". Is that really something we want to introduce as a matter of law?

      I mean, would YOU enjoy it if someone brought suit against you, personally, for not restraining or even becoming involved with what your brother or sister said about someone? Alth
      • by GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon @ g m a i l . com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:34PM (#16414299)
        ...but the issue here is less a criminal matter than a civil one. It's not "involuntary manslaughter," it's "involuntary libel"... or "negligent defamation". Is that really something we want to introduce as a matter of law?
        I would think it's already a matter of law. In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff generally seeks the biggest pool of available funds to go after. So for example, if there's an injury and the defendant has an umbrella policy, the plaintiff's attorney will go after the umbrella policy because it has a larger pool to draw from. In the case of children, their legal guardians are held at least partly responsible for their actions. If my child was throwing rocks at cars and ended up causing an accident, you can bet that I would be the one held responsible for the damage. It should come as absolutely no surprise that libel, slander or defamation suits work in the same way.

        I mean, would YOU enjoy it if someone brought suit against you, personally, for not restraining or even becoming involved with what your brother or sister said about someone? Although the legal responsibility is different from parent to child, it still takes a "personal" civil offense and makes it a "group" offense. I find that scary.
        As you said, the parent/child legal responsibility is different than that between siblings. If my brother did some horrible thing to someone, the victim wouldn't dare try to sue me unless I was somehow complicit in what my brother did. While it would be perfectly legal to open a lawsuit against me, such would generally considered to be frivolous and could be countered with a harassment suit. But as a parent or guardian, I am responsible (at least in part) for my child's behavior while he or she is a minor. That's part of my responsibility and accountability as a parent. If I were named legal guardian of my brother, I would expect similar issues (although complicated by the fact that my brother would treat me more as a peer than a parent). Do I find this scary? Just scary enough to make me do my best to raise my children right.
  • by PFI_Optix (936301) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @04:53PM (#16413613) Journal
    I recently learned that something very like this was happening at the school district where I work. Several teachers learned that someone had assumed their identities on MySpace and were posting defamatory remarks. My suggestion was to have the district's lawyer informally contact MySpace asking that the sites be taken down, and follow up with a C&D letter a week letter if they didn't comply.

    No word concerning a lawsuit against the student(s) responsible.
    • by RajivSLK (398494)
      I think the proper way to deal with this is to have MySpace take the page down. Then at the next school assembly ask the perpetrator to come forward. Explain that if the responsible party owns up they will receive a rather light punishment however, if no one owns up an investigation will be done and, if the responsible party is found, a serve punishment will be given.

      It is important for kids to learn that their actions have consequences and to take responsibility. If the kid who did it gets away cleanly un
      • Bwahaha (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pavon (30274)

        Then at the next school assembly ask the perpetrator to come forward.

        That is a horrible idea. No one will step forward, and you will just publicise the fact that this occured to anyone who didn't already know about it, many of whom will think it is hilarious. This will only encourage the person who did it. The only possible good that could come from it is if the announcement causes the perpetrator to brag about it and the word gets around to the administration. Even then, it isn't a good idea to punish a st

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Phroggy (441) *
          Sure, get the site taken down, and punish the perpetrator. But if you don't know who did it, the last thing that you want to do is stand in front of a group of rebelious teens and make idle threats.

          It's not an idle threat. If you file a lawsuit (against John Doe, for libel) you can subpoena MySpace to find out the IP addresses and timestamps for the people responsible, then subpoena the ISP for their billing records. If the kids did it from home, you've got them. Even if they did it from a public library
    • by Kemanorel (127835) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:59PM (#16414661)
      Having been on the receiving end of similar incidents involving students at my school (I teach Algebra in a Jr. High), I have found MySpace to be very quick to delete profiles that are fraudulent or defamatory when they are notified. They are even quicker when you say that the students involved are likely to be under that magic COPA age of 13. Being a US company, they take the federal online statutes quite seriously. Had the pages in question been truly harmful, I would have taken further action of finding out which students were involved, contacting their parents, and pursuing further avenues as needed. There have been other students in my district that have been suspended, transferred, or outright expelled for things they have posted on MySpace. Hazing, bullying, and libel can very much extend into the digital realm and have repercussions in the offline world. Young and old need to be aware of that and treat it the same as they would someone making harassing phone calls, passing out flyers in a neighborhood, or taking out an ad in a newspaper.

      I'm glad MySpace is not getting sued in this one. I didn't RTFA, but I have to wonder if the Vice Principal tried to resolve this with the parents before escalating it to a civil case. It is quite possible that she did and got a response along the lines of, "kids will be kids," or worse yet, "it couldn't be my child, you have no proof, I'm not going to do anything, I'm not listening, la-la-la-la-la-la-la."

      Ok, enough rambling. Time to sleep.
  • Punishing ignorance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mangu (126918) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @04:54PM (#16413637)
    Such lawsuits will eventually have a Darwinist effect on the web. Those who know how to cover their tracks will never be sued.


    People should get used to the fact that lots of info one gets from the web is fake [snopes.com]. So what?


    And who cares about MySpace anyhow? A high-school assistant principal doesn't seem to be in the right circle of social relations to be harmed by that page.


    If I were in the jury, I would propose a verdict "guilty but harmless, throw away".

    • by IflyRC (956454) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:00PM (#16413737)
      And who cares about MySpace anyhow?

      Actually, employers have started checking out prospective job candidates via MySpace, Google and other online resources to see if there is anything that may stand out as a conflict with the company. Read about it here [foxnews.com].Now, sexual orientation used a reason not to hire someone would be considered as discriminatory however if other information was posted such as someone bragging about the $3000 they stole from X company while they weren't looking could cost someone a potential job.

      So, obviously someone does care about MySpace.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      A high-school assistant principal doesn't seem to be in the right circle of social relations to be harmed by that page.

      What?

      A high-school assistant principal is in the middle of that "circle of social relations".

      Just because that assistant principal's peers aren't going to be seeing that MySpace page, doesn't mean that having X,000 students see it isn't going to cause harm.

      P.S. FTFA: "And it wasn't just school students; "a few were individuals Ms. Draker did not recognize, that lived near Clark High School,

  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @04:54PM (#16413647)
    Folks, if you keep pitbulls, you have a responsibility to train them, fence them in and keep them muzzled in pullic places. If you're going to breed, then you have a responsibility to make sure your offspring are behaving properly until they are adults. If you give them the car keys, make sure they behave properly with the car or take it away. If you give them an internet connection then make sure they behave well online. Sure, kids will try to test their limits - that's how they learn - but ultimately if a kid screws up you should be there to take the heat.

    Raising kids is hard work (got 2 me'self), and it is **your** work, not the state's or school's work or myspace's work!

    • I'm sure you never resorted to calling your high school teachers names.

      Please. It's hardly lawsuit material. How about two or three hours of detention?
      • by Chosen Reject (842143) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:07PM (#16413849)
        If I say to my friend that the principal is a lesbian it's between the two of us and we know what the context is (that is, we know I'm upset at her and am calling her names for no other good reason). That's not the same as me pretending to be my principal on myspace and acting like a lesbian. Two major things are very different: scope and representation. In the first scenario the scope is a friend, and I am representing myself. In the second the scope is potentially the whole world (including employers, family, friends, etc.) and the I am pretending to represent someone who I am not.

        Hope that helps you understand.
    • by Vellmont (569020) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:31PM (#16414239)
      Thanks for the typical comment that gets cheered on Oprah. It doesn't really tell anyone anything we didn't already know though.

      This case isn't about parental responsibility however, it's about parental liability. How are parents supposed to be held liable for not stopping their kids from posting a fake Myspace page? Are parents supposed to act like little police states, spying on their kids at every moment? I could see the parents being held liable if they knew about this whole fiasco before it got shut down by MySpace. But what about the far more likely case that they had no idea?
      • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @06:06PM (#16414757)

        Are parents supposed to act like little police states, spying on their kids at every moment?

        If that's what's necessary to keep their children under control, then yes, absolutely. Of course, if they need such draconian steps, they've probably already been failing as parents for a long time.

        People need to understand that kids are not adults. That's why they're kids. They have not yet learned to behave responsibly as an adult should, and they have not yet earned the rights and freedoms we give to adults. In an ideal world, as children get older and become more responsible, their parents (and society generally) would confer on them increasing freedom in return, until they transition naturally to adulthood with full rights and full responsibility. But respect is earned, and with freedom must come responsibility. If a child doesn't behave appropriately, they don't deserve the privileges, and that includes luxuries like computers in their room, Internet access, and the freedom to combine them unsupervised.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Are parents supposed to act like little police states, spying on their kids at every moment?

        Well almost. Children have no right to privacy from their parents. They can earn some privilege to some privacy, but this is not a right.

        I could see the parents being held liable if they knew about this whole fiasco before it got shut down by MySpace. But what about the far more likely case that they had no idea?

        That is for the courts to determine on a case-by-case basis. But, it is right that parents should be pr

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Vellmont (569020)

          Well almost. Children have no right to privacy from their parents. They can earn some privilege to some privacy, but this is not a right.

          So because children have no right to privacy, parents should simply not give them any rights or freedom? Err. ok.

          That is for the courts to determine on a case-by-case basis. But, it is right that parents should be prosecuted, even if they are not guilty, or found guilty, in this case

          Are you really saying that anytime a kid does something legally wrong, the parents should
  • Overblown (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rbf2000 (862211)
    I'm not in high school anymore, but I know it would have been impossible for my parents to monitor all of my online activities. I suppose the parents could have set up a filter to block certain sites, such as myspace, and while that may inconvenience the students, they would most likely find other means to let out their frustration, such as spray paint on the teacher's car.

    Personally, I think what they did is about on par with yelling at somebody in a crowded room. It may hurt your feelings, but is any
  • Someone attaining the position of assistant principal should have the intelligence to confront the problem themselves. Seems like all school administrators these days are requiring the LAW to teach students. Education used to be about learning and it doesn't appear this principal is demonstrating the ability to learn herself.
    • by planetmn (724378) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:38PM (#16414369)
      Seems like all school administrators these days are requiring the LAW to teach students.

      This is because the parents have made it this way. You wouldn't believe how much the hands of administrators and teachers are tied when it comes to disciplining a student in a public school. I wouldn't last a day without a lawsuit.

      Case in point. My wife is an elementary school teacher. She had to take "restraint training" and I asked her what that was. It's training to "restrain" an unruly and potentially violent student. But here's the thing, she's not allowed to touch the student! The student can physically assualt her and the other children in the classroom, but she can't grab him by the wrist. Remember the saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? Well, the students are the only ones allowed to have sticks and stones. Administrators and teachers can't even use words.

      The best that can be hoped for is that the parents will take care of the situation, that's it. You can't punish a student anymore. You can't expel them. Parent's will sue, district's will give in. Basically, the unruly kids with poor parents have won. They can do whatever they want without any recourse. Which is why I hope this lawsuit succeeds. It's about time that the parents and courts agreed that sometimes kids need to be disciplined.

      -dave
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DragonWriter (970822)

        My wife is an elementary school teacher. She had to take "restraint training" and I asked her what that was. It's training to "restrain" an unruly and potentially violent student. But here's the thing, she's not allowed to touch the student! The student can physically assualt her and the other children in the classroom, but she can't grab him by the wrist.

        I don't know about everywhere, but in many places, the actual law is that teachers have every bit as much legal right to touch students to maintain discp

  • We'll leave it to the courts to decide if this is sound legal doctrine, but there's certainly something in what Draker says. As we have repeatedly argued when it comes to video games, parents need to take an interest (and a supervisory role) in the media that their children consume, and that holds true when it comes to the Internet as well. Sticking a computer and a DSL modem in your child's room and never showing the slightest bit of interest in what he does with that technology is the height of irresponsi

  • I'm somewhat divided (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:00PM (#16413729) Journal
    Draker's lawsuit says that the parents have a duty to know what their children are up to--especially in light of both students' past run-ins with Draker at school.

    "Allowing access to the Internet, unsupervised and without restraint poses an obvious and unreasonable danger that such children would utilize the Internet for illicit purposes such as the ones alleged above," says the suit in accusing the parents of "negligent supervision."
    On the one hand, I don't have a problem holding the kids accountable for what they did.

    I'm up in the air about making it the parents' fault.

    On the other hand, I strongly disagree with the idea that "Allowing access to the Internet, unsupervised and without restraint poses an obvious and unreasonable danger that such children would utilize the Internet for illicit purposes"

    Claiming negligent supervision over the kids' use of the internet.... that creates an incredibly high burden for any parent. Unless the kids have done this before, I can't imagine that the "obvious and unreasonable danger" charge is going to hold up.
    • by irregular_hero (444800) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:21PM (#16414065)
      Allowing access to the Internet, unsupervised and without restraint poses an obvious and unreasonable danger that such children would utilize the Internet for illicit purposes.

      I once saw a court case centered around this particular notion flame out after one exceptionally bright young attorney asked the jury, "Could YOUR mother do it?"

      Deliberation didn't even take that long.
      • Reasonable Measures (Score:3, Interesting)

        by phorm (591458)
        I think a bigger question would be, what have (or had) the parents already done? If their kids are, in fact, running amock without guidance or any supervision/disclipine, then I'd say a nice fine would be a good way to disclipline bad parents. If the parents were in fact taking steps and they weren't working at the time (but they were trying to find a solution), then it's bad enough that they have uncontrollable assholes for kids, but slapping a fine or lawsuit on them is adding insult to injury.

        I've seen
    • by elsilver (85140) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @07:40PM (#16415899) Homepage
      I'm up in the air about making it the parents' fault.

      On the other hand, I strongly disagree with the idea that "Allowing access to the Internet, unsupervised and without restraint poses an obvious and unreasonable danger that such children would utilize the Internet for illicit purposes"

      It would be a really great defense if the parents could show that they monitored their children's activities at home, and the myspace page was made from school. Then the assistant-principal would have to sue herself.
  • by gbulmash (688770) * <semi_famous@yahF ... m minus language> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:01PM (#16413747) Homepage Journal
    I've seen a number of news stories over the years where parents had a rude awakening when their out of control teens did something really bad and they ended up on the other side of a lawsuit.

    The end result seems that common law holds, by precedent, that parents have a legal duty to teach their children right from wrong. Unless it can be proved, by reason of obvious mental defect, that the child is incapable of learning this, then why not hold the parent liable when the kid does something bad enough to warrant criminal or civil proceedings?

    Kids will be kids, to be sure, and there's only so much you can do. But the bar of "only so much" is one it seems many parents fail to clear. Wrapped up in their own issues, they don't stop and say: "I'm responsible for this kid and I need to put a few of my needs on hold so I can make sure this kid turns out okay."

    The negligence that caused these kids to end up doing what they did was not recent, but systematic. I hope the principal wins a significant judgement, it holds up on appeal, and that the kids spend the rest of their lives being reminded how their own selfishness (likely learned from their parents) ruined the lives of their families.

    - G
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Generic Guy (678542)

      then why not hold the parent liable when the kid does something bad enough to warrant criminal or civil proceedings?

      Wouldn't it be hilarious if it turns out these teens actually set up this MySpace riff on the asst-Principle from the school. What's the school to do then, sue themselves?

      The biggest problem I see with these indirect lawsuits by association (Parents you didn't watch your schoolkids close enough) is that the schools themselves are the absolute worst when it comes to avoiding responsibiliti

      • by Software (179033) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:57PM (#16414649) Homepage Journal
        Wouldn't it be hilarious if it turns out these teens actually set up this MySpace riff on the asst-Principal from the school. What's the school to do then, sue themselves?
        Newsflash: being at a certain location when you perform a defamatory act does not absolve you of the liability for that act. If I write a defamatory MySpace page from a library's computer, I can't use "but I was at the library" as a defense to my actions; I'm still liable. The library may, hypothetically, have contributory negligence and be named as a party to the suit, but I'm not off the hook. So in TFA, the fact that a school computer may have been used does not absolve the student of anything; it just gives the school one fewer party to sue. Or do you think the student could use, "the school should have prevented me from doing this on their computer" as a defense? Good luck with that one.

        If indeed there was defamatory content on the page, I think this case is a slam dunk. Parents are civilly liable for the actions of their minor children; there are probably thousands of cases on this. The "should the parents have been spying on them? huh?" argument is basically worthless. The answer is, "Whether the parents spy on the kids or not is up to them, but if the kids screw up, the parents are on the hook."
  • Seriously, I've always wondered how someone can do it. The RIAA, this assistant principal...anyone.

    How do they know, beyond a resonable doubt, who did it?

    Seems like in this case you'd need logs from Myspace on what user and IP address did the deed. Then, you'd need logs from the ISP to match the IP to the account. Then, you'd need to prove which computer had that IP. And then, you'd need to prove who was actually on it at the time. And finally, wouldn't you have to prove that the box wasn't hacked/

    • by stubear (130454)
      This is a civil case, reasonable doubt does not apply here. One only needs to prove that it's a likely certainty that these kids performed the ac they were accused of and that the parents were negligent in their duties to prevent their kids from acting in the manner of which they were accused.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ptbarnett (159784)
      In this particular case, the plaintiff has a written statement from one of the students, who admits that he made the MySpace page with assistance from others (who are apparently not identified). That statement is corroborated by the other student named in the complaint, who has admitted that his computer was used to make the MySpace page.

      According to the complaint, the local police have reportedly obtained information from MySpace that confirms the computers used to make/access the MySpace page are locat

  • by Arwing (951573)
    who thinks this is dangerous? I mean, didn't we see the news of someone who got convicted for posting negative comments online? Where does the line stop? Next thing you know, any type of negative opinion can be sued and we all know ALL of us are gonna get in trouble for the stuff we crap out on /.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:03PM (#16413791) Homepage
    It's rare when such an expression actually fits a situation. Usually, when someone says something like that, it doesn't make complete logical sense to me.

    I, like so many others, would like to see parents being held accountable for many things such as the health and well-being of their children, and yes, their behavior as well. I have some issue with the reasons in this case, however.

    Is it Libel to fraudulantly claim to be someone else and then claim things that are untrue? In many cases, examples of this sort of thing are found in comedy and other materials as a form of satire. Satire is generally targetted at public figures, but in their circles, an assistant principal is a very public figure. And making absurd or outrageous claims is all part of this thing we call freedom of expression in these United States.

    If they were acting as themselves and reporting that they have evidence that what they claimed about their assistant pricipal was correct as stated, that might indeed be considered libel. But in this case, I would have to consider a MySpace blog posted in the first-person would have to beconsidered as nothing short of satire since it can be easily shown that the origins of the content were not truthful and therefore the whole set of contents were suspect. Under no reasonable circumstance could the content have been considered or mistaken as factual and therefore could only be construed as an artistic expression... a very First Amendment activity.

    I think before parents should even be considered as partially responsible, let's first determine if there's an actual crime. I doubt this should be considered a crime in this case.
  • by mattkime (8466) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:04PM (#16413811)
    I, for one, am surprised that MySpace hasn't raised the maturity level of those that use it.

    Internet! What has happened to you?? You had such promise...
  • For all of the people thinking the government cannot impose fines or sentences on parents based on acts the children are responsible for, keep in mind that many truancy laws hold parents accountable for the child's absence from school up until the point the child has turned 18 years of age and is no longer a minor. Sure, it's a little different but the point is that parents are held legally accountable for their child's actions in some cases. It will be up to a court of law to decide if this is one of those
  • by LaughingCoder (914424) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:07PM (#16413845)
    On the one hand the government is continually taking more and more control away from parents (for example, if a young girl wants an abortion she can get one without having to obtain parental permission; children are routinely taken away from "unfit" parents; parents are not allowed to prevent their children from being exposed to school material they find objectionable). Then on the other hand we want to blame parents for their kids' actions. There is no denying that there has been a steady erosion of parental rights in the past few decades. You can't have it both ways. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it is the village that is responsible when that child commits a crime, not the parents who's authority has been, in many cases, usurped.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:09PM (#16413879)
    1. Sharing is bad: Intro to Copyright Law
    2. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but libel makes me call my lawyer
    3. Sit down and shut up: Intro to Democracy
    4. Why did those mean men take mommy away? Homeland Security for kids
  • by techstar25 (556988) <techstar25.cfl@rr@com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:11PM (#16413913) Homepage Journal
    The Asst Principal should be fired right now, for setting such a bad example. What ever happened to "Sticks and stones...". She is a grown adult. At no time is she in any danger by this myspace page, and any judge will recognize that. It's all completely harmless. At no time is she at risk for a financial loss by the page, and she won't be in the future. Nobody can prove any harm was done whatsoever. Sure, some bloggers are committing libel, but that's not the same as calling somebody a lesbian. However by seeking to retaliate against the students, she is displaying a very poor moral character and bad judgement. I would pull my kids out of the school immediately (whether they have anything to do with this or not), and/or go to the superintendant and complain.
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:21PM (#16414075)

      At no time is she in any danger by this myspace page, and any judge will recognize that. It's all completely harmless. At no time is she at risk for a financial loss by the page, and she won't be in the future. Nobody can prove any harm was done whatsoever.

      What makes you think this? Did her husband leave her because of this page? Do you know? Did her boyfriend break up with her? Did her mother cry after reading it? Employers have been known to check myspace before hiring people. Did a school pass on offering her a job as principal there because they did not want to deal with the controversy surrounding hiring a lesbian? Again, do you know, or are you just assuming?

      I would pull my kids out of the school immediately (whether they have anything to do with this or not), and/or go to the superintendant and complain.

      Great way to teach them to take responsibility for their actions. They broke the law. If you, as a parent, failed to teach them ethics, such as the ethics about lying, maybe you should be held legally responsible for any damage that causes to society until they are old enough to make their own decisions. For that matter do you even know if the parents were approached before the lawsuit? Supposedly these kids had caused problems before. Maybe legal action was the only way she felt the kids would actually be taught a lesson given the lack of response from the parents. You don't know. I don't know. Maybe then, you should stop making assertions until you do know.

    • by everphilski (877346) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:35PM (#16414319) Journal
      At no time is she in any danger by this myspace page

      According to the court filing, Ms. Draker has been harassed by others accessing the web page ... I guess I would count harassment I did not provoke as "danger." It is also a matter of libel, which is why she is taking the matter to court. The wide dispursal, beyound just a few students and the class... kinda like defending a trademark, if you don't do something about it your name loses its innocence. Sure, some bloggers are committing libel, but that's not the same as calling somebody a lesbian.

      More to it than that. It isn't that simple.
  • Litigation for this is a flaming waste of time and tax-payer monies! The assistant principal should just blow it off instead she is litigious... that is just so... gay!
  • Follow the money (Score:3, Informative)

    by hotspotbloc (767418) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:18PM (#16414023) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore is a very big and very, very expensive firm. I doubt they're taking this suit on a contingent fee unless the kids come from some major legal money. Maybe the plaintiff just has mid five figures to burn through in a few months and wants to make a point (but I doubt that). So who's paying the legal fees right now? I'm thinking of a group that's mostly likely: white, christian and has a general intolerance for anyone or thing different (like the CCA or the FRC). Sorry, but it is Texas and this is America.

    Answer this and we'll understand more about the goal of the suit.
  • Sounds fair. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xant (99438) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:41PM (#16414411) Homepage
    Is this libel? Sounds like it. I haven't seen it, didn't find a link, but from the description we've got untruth in writing or broadcast, tending to bring the target into ridicule/hatred, etc., all that.

    Is it still libel on the Internet? The Internet makes it much easier to publish stuff for a wide audience, but you're still doing that, however easy it may be.

    Are parents responsible for the acts of their children? Yes. In civil cases, and in many criminal cases, the parents can be held responsible.

    Is this going to bring a "chilling effect"? I think the only thing it's going to chill is people publishing hurtful lies about other people online. I have no problem with that. The only thing new here is that minors have greater access to the eyeballs of the public at large than they did before.
  • by DeadboltX (751907) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @05:46PM (#16414499)
    I think too many people are downplaying the consiquences of having a fake myspace page in your name.

        Myspace has become a common tool used by employers to seek out more information about their potential hires. If someone makes a fake page about you, portraying you as a satanist or druggy, or some other socially undesirable label then that could effect whether you get a job or not.

        Aside from this it could put your existing job in jeopardy. What if the kids had made this page out to look like the teacher was a sexual predator, preying on her underaged students, and even go so far as to make fake blogs depicting sexual encounters with her students.

        If the student's intent was malicious and not just to be funny, they could easily put the teacher's job in a situation for review. A student shows his parents the myspace page, the parent notifies otehr parents, brings it up to the pta, to the school board. All of a sudden this teacher is on a suspension until an investigation is complete as to whether or not this teacher is actually a sexual predator. This is the good-case scenario, worst case of course is that the teacher cannot prove her innocence and all this fake evidence is enough to get the teacher fired and even listed as a sex offender, being pubicly humiliated.

    I can only imagine how difficult and lengthy the process is to get a fraudulent page removed from myspace unless it specifically violated several myspace rules.
  • by pico303 (187769) on Friday October 13, 2006 @01:30AM (#16419409)
    I've noticed a number of people complaining that a parent can't possibly police his or her child 100% of the time. As a parent with only one child, I can tell you that this is pretty much true. Unfortunately for me, and fortunately for you, I am also 100% responsible for what my child does until he or she becomes an adult (18).

    Look at it this way: if my daughter spray paints your house, breaks all your windows, and writes "Dirty Slut!" on your garage door, who do you think pays for that? While my daughter would probably spend some time in community service--which is exactly what these kids should do, probably related to gay rights or antidefamation--the parents should be held financially responsible for restoring this woman's good name, including monetary reward for pain and suffering. It sounds like it's more than just calling her a lesbian online, but disparaging her reputation and putting her name and picture out there when she did not want nor ask for that publicity.

    In any case, these kids are just mean little bastards, and if the parents aren't going to take responsibility for them, they should at least reimburse society for having to do it for them.

"A mind is a terrible thing to have leaking out your ears." -- The League of Sadistic Telepaths

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