Student Sues School District for Facebook Photo Use

Judge - Marietta Attorney

Student Sues School District for Facebook Photo Use

Fayette County School Administrator Curtis Cearley gave a seminar on how social media can damage your reputation, and as a result, Chelsea Chaney feels that he ruined hers. She’s now suing the district and administrator for $2 million, claiming libel, slander, invasion of privacy, and other wrongs.

During his seminar in 2011, Cearley showed a cartoon of a daughter finding her mother’s old Facebook page which lists her mother’s hobbies as “bad boys, jello shooters, and body art.” The cartoon was followed with a picture of high school senior Chelsea Chaney. The picture showed Chaney at a family outing at the lake in her bikini posed next to a life-size replica of Snoop Dogg holding a Blast (a caffeinated alcoholic beverage). Cearley identified who Chaney was and then stated, “Once it’s there, it’s there to stay.” Chaney’s lawyer, Paul Welborn said that juxtaposing Chaney’s picture with the cartoon implies that Chaney engages in similar and equally questionable activities.

Although Chaney did not attend the seminar, many of her friends did and called her immediately sharing what had happened. Chaney was humiliated by the incident, but her humiliation did not stop there. Teachers pulled up her photo in their classroom and used it as classroom discussion. Some sympathized with her while others said she “had gotten what was coming to her.” Cearley ended up writing an apology to Chaney and her parents for the embarrassment that it caused them. Welborn said that Cearley violated many district policies governing the staff about the internet. Cearley was defended by a deputy school superintendent saying that Chaney’s picture was one of the “tamest” photos that Cearley had found on student’s Facebook pages.

Do you feel that the case is credible since it was posted on the internet?

Chaney v. Fayette County School District and Curtis Cearley No. 3:13-cv-00089

Source: The Daily Report, “Student Sues Over Facebook Photo Use,” Brendan Peirson, June 14, 2013.

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