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School Official Sues Over MySpace Page

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the their-kids'-keeper dept.

527

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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527 comments

One step closer (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413495)

to myspace's death. yay

Re:One step closer (4, Insightful)

aeonex (1012843) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413593)

Myspace shouldn't receive any punishment because of things like this. Only the people who abuse the service should be sued/fined/restricted.

Re:One step closer (2, Insightful)

Amouth (879122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413933)

if you really view myspace as a "service" then you obviously don't understand the point of the post you replied to.

Re:One step closer (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413767)

someone tell the dyke to fucking lighten up :)

GNAA suspected in death of Rob Levin (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413515)

GNAA suspected in death of Rob Levin
GNAA suspected in death of Rob Levin

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An announcement of his death was transmitted as a Global Notice across the Freenode network, on September 17 at 06:18 JST:
06:18 -christel(i=christel@freenode/staff/gentoo.christe l)- [Global Notice] On the 12th September Rob Levin, known to many as Freenode's lilo, was hit by a car while riding his bike. He suffered head injuries and passed away in hospital on the 16th. For more information please visit #freenode-announce

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The GNAA reaction was astonishing. "We have stuck alot of things up Rob Levin's ass in our time, but we maintain innocence," stated GNAA president timecop, fingers crossed."Even when driving a bus up some nigger's ass was fashionable, the GNAA never took part in it."

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Re:GNAA suspected in death of Rob Levin (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413685)

That was pretty funny.

Re:GNAA suspected in death of Rob Levin (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413931)

The GNAA is responsible for this. Its the GNAA's parents.... *THEY* are the ones that should get "-1 troll"

... depicting her as a lesbian. (5, Insightful)

Vinnie_333 (575483) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413519)

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Re:... depicting her as a lesbian. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413769)

Of course there is nothing wrong with lesbians, they're great! I'm a big fan, I have all their video's!

Re:... depicting her as a lesbian. (2, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413957)

"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 there is nothing wrong being a lesbian you might not like getting hit on by other women.
C. Odds are that she was being portrayed as an promiscuous lesbian.

I had a friend in high school that was gay. I am very straight. Someone decided to spread the rumor that I was Gay.
I got some very phone calls that I did not welcome. I explained to the ones that where not disgusting that no I was not gay and I was not interested. I told them I was sorry that they where mislead.

SO YEA IT IS FREAKING WRONG TO REPRESENT ANYONE AS SOMETHING THEY ARE NOT! IT IS ALSO FREAKING WRONG TO REPRESENTS ANYONES SEXUALITY WITH OUT THEIR PERMISSION!
Get past the gay vs straight / left vs right mentality for just a second and try to think in human terms.

I worked a professional theater in my college days. One of actors was very gay but his parents didn't know it. When they came to the show would it have been alright for me to out him? NO!

Grrrr....

Bout time (0, Flamebait)

GmAz (916505) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413527)

Its about time that someone puts part of the blame on the parents. Until the kids are 18, the parents are responsible for their actions. I hope the kids parents get sued into the poorhouse. Maybe it will wake up a few parents and take their kids off myspace.

Re:Bout time (2, Interesting)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413561)

Maybe as a society we should stop focusing on blame quite so much and focus MORE on the 'why' surrounding the behavior. The principal's blaming the students for supposed 'improper' behavior, and the students' retribution for it are really part of the same problem.

Not really (4, Insightful)

mrcparker (469158) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413691)

These kids, for whatever reason, posted information that they knew to be wrong to hurt the teacher. This sounds like libel to me. Does it really matter why they put up the information?

Re:Not really (1)

HMC CS Major (540987) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413793)

It is libel. It was clearly wrong. Trying to make excuses for it is like trying to justify suicide bombers - it's clearly wrong, and it doesn't make up for anything that may have happened for them in the past.

Re:Not really (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413977)

Suicide bombing is no more wrong than any other sort of bombing, unless of course the target is civilians that don't support any government involved in whatever the conflict in question is.

Re:Not really (1)

tringstad (168599) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413949)

These kids, for whatever reason, posted information that they knew to be wrong to hurt the teacher. This sounds like libel to me. Does it really matter why they put up the information?

Interesting that you use intent ("to hurt the teacher") in your reasoning that intent doesn't matter.

For what it's worth, I am firmly against legislating anything based on subjective properties such as intent, I just don't quite get your logic.

-Tommy

Re:Bout time (5, Interesting)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413819)

The principal's blaming the students for supposed 'improper' behavior, and the students' retribution for it are really part of the same problem.

Yeah. The problem is, the kids got disciplined and instead of taking it like young adults they went and screwed around on the Internet, calling their teacher a lesbian (among other things). Sounds like some snotty brats that either haven't been properly parented or need some community service or something to redirect their energies.

Re:Bout time (1)

Liveandletlive (841246) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413993)

What is the precedent? In earlier days, if students started passing around notes about this teacher, were the parents held responsible?

Re:Bout time (1)

Achoi77 (669484) | more than 7 years ago | (#16414007)

Maybe as a society we should stop focusing on blame quite so much and focus MORE on the 'why' surrounding the behavior. The principal's blaming the students for supposed 'improper' behavior, and the students' retribution for it are really part of the same problem.

If you are unable to think of any reason on why a student would possibly put up a fake myspace account impersonating a teacher(or in this case an assistant principal) they have been disciplined by in attempts to humiliate them, then I don't know what to tell you. Let's try and come up with a few conclusions:

1) The student(s) probably don't like their assistant principal

2) The student(s) probably don't like being disciplined by their assistant principal

3) The student(s) probably felt like they were being wronged for being disciplined by their assistant principal

4) The student(s) probably felt some form of vindication by trying to humiliate their assistant principal using a medium they are versed in - in this case, myspace

Remember the days when students would get angry towards their supervisors, go to their house late at night and vandalize stuff? Things like toilet papering their house, trying to uproot plants and throwing rocks at windows in attempts to destroy property? This is merely a new form of vandalism, except it is in more public view, and with the potential to be more destructive to the victim than merely a broken window.

So why are people doing things like this? Simply because they think they can get away with it.

Apparently you don't have children (3, Insightful)

XNine (1009883) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413579)

But you cannot monitor EVERYTHING your child does. You have to work to keep the child clothed, fed, and sheltered and keep up with home maintenance and other every-day social tasks. It's impossible to keep an eye on a kid ALL of the time. I'm sure these kids are probably over the age of 12, which by then they should probably know right from wrong. I'd say give these kids 120 hours of community service and let them learn from their mistakes. Having their parents "sued into the poor house" seems a little extreme to me.

Re:Apparently you don't have children (4, Informative)

MankyD (567984) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413689)

But you cannot monitor EVERYTHING your child does.
Whole heartedly agree. I don't think anyone doubts this.

I'm sure these kids are probably over the age of 12, which by then they should probably know right from wrong.
If you're children are 12+, supposedly know right from wrong, but still think posting defamatory material about someone is "right", then you should seriously question your parenting skills and, if you ask me, should thusly be held liable for your childrens' actions.

Until they reach the age of 18, (or whatever age the courts decide is adult,) their actions should be as good as your actions.

Re:Apparently you don't have children (2, Interesting)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413821)

Heck, I'm 35- and I think that people posting defamatory information are saying more about themselves than the person they are defaming. To that end, why would I ever sue over my enemy making himself look like a big fat idiot?

Re:Apparently you don't have children (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413997)

*insert random insult questioning poster's intelligence*

>>If you're children are 12+, supposedly know right from wrong,

Yes, most 12+ year olds do know what's right and what's wrong. Most 10 year olds do.

>>but still think posting defamatory material about someone is "right"

No. They know it's wrong but they do it anyway. Remember all the stuff you did that was wrong, but you did it anyway?

>> then you should seriously question your parenting skills

Thankyou, we shall all take your considered advice to question ... hang on a minute! ...

>>should thusly be held liable for your childrens' actions

it's a bit of a leap from "questioning parenting skills" to being held vicariously liable. You didn't think this one through, did you.
How do you spot the non-parent on /. ? He's the one giving parenting advice. Next you'll be handing out dating advice and sex tips.

These days the actual influence of a parent is becoming very diluted. Many other agencies want a piece of your kids and they don't care what messages they have to send to get it.

FYI: my kids are 2 years old and 7 months old. When you can get a 2 year old to behave like an angel, feel free to offer advice.

Re:Apparently you don't have children (1)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413717)

You're right about the monetary issue. Make the parent do some ammount of community as well.

Re:Apparently you don't have children (1)

lostngone (855272) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413725)

If you/anyone can't monitor what your minor child does then maybe they shouldn't have had any in the first place. Its not everyone else's job to raise other peoples children or fix problems they cause. I would say until the child is no longer a minor the parents should have to take 100% of the responsibly for what they do.

Re:Apparently you don't have children (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413735)

But you cannot monitor EVERYTHING your child does.

True, which is why it is important to teach your children ethics and how to make good decisions. Someone who tries to control their children's behavior through micromanagement and force will fail miserably.

I'm sure these kids are probably over the age of 12, which by then they should probably know right from wrong.

Unless their parents did not teach them both right from wrong and personal responsibility.

I'd say give these kids 120 hours of community service and let them learn from their mistakes. Having their parents "sued into the poor house" seems a little extreme to me.

Since this is a civil suit, community service is unlikely unless it is a settlement. In this case the children and parents are both responsible for the actions they took. The children performed the action and the parents are responsible for punishing them. They have very limited legal rights, however, thus their legal responsibility is similarly limited (or should be). The parents should be held legally responsible. Now I'm not sure how much real damage was done and the punishment should fit the crime. How about a myspace page and an ad in the local paper advertising the parents as unable to control their bratty, obnoxious, lying, homophobic kids and being to incompetent to teach them proper ethics? Maybe with some embarrassing pictures and stories about the kids included in the page?

Re:Apparently you don't have children (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413759)

There is a difference between having children and being a parent and it is really depressing to see how few people really understand that. If you're a good parent, you don't have to watch your children 24 hours a day to ensure that they are not up to no good. By the time a child is old enough to create a MySpace account and impersonate their teacher they should already understand that it is wrong and that they shouldn't do it.

It is depressing to see that parents are spending so much money buying phones to ensure that they're "connected to their children" or so they can "check up on them" because, if they were actually involved in their children's life, it isn't necessary.

Re:Apparently you don't have children (1)

Ocular Magic (948250) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413827)

I'm on the fence about this. I agree that you can't watch your kids 100% of the time. Sometimes they'll get in trouble over at a friends house who has parents that don't keep as good an eye on them. But, I know I would definitely want SOMETHING done of people started spouting untrue things on the net about me. Not just that they think I'm mean, unfair for giving them detention, or the like. But saying I'm something I'm not, homosexual, child molester, etc. can be somewhat damaging to your future, especially if you're a public servant. It's just too easy to spread things that are untrue and ruin someone these days. Until more people start to realize that most of everything said on the net via myspace, facebook, blah blah blah is NOT true, something needs to be done. I don't know what the answer is, but I hope we find something reasonable soon.

My question: (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413945)

What if a kid managed to do this entirely from, say, a public library? Or from school itself? In the latter case, the parent probably isn't even _permitted to try_ and find out what their child has been doing on the school's computers, and in the former case it's logistically impossible if you don't want to be following the kid everywhere. Does anyone have some insight into what a parent would do in this case?

Re:Bout time (1)

ZTiger (682967) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413633)

To bad the U.S.A. has some strange laws about what a parent can and can't do to their child for punishment. I wonder if the parents will point back at myspace for failure to validate authenticity? Matter of fact am I really me who is posting this on /. ?

Re:Bout time (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413989)

Uh...huh? Parents aren't allowed to beat their children, it's (rightly) considered a crime of violence. Reasonable corporal punishment is generally allowed. And why are you focusing in on the US? Many countries have laws prohibiting that sort of thing.

Re:Bout time (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413757)

what? becoming a parent means you have to look over your children's shoulders 24/7 until they're 18 (and heaven help you if you have more than 1 child, they'll just have to share a bedroom so you can deny them both privacy at once) because you have absolute responsibility until they turn 18?

It seems to me that that is what you're proposing, and it's the stupidest idea I've heard in a long time.

You send a pretty poor message about personal responsibility to kids by punishing their parents until they turn 18.

Obligatory (1, Troll)

orionesque (968896) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413531)

Only in america

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413609)

Only in america.


I'll raise you with Texas. God, what a fscked up state. Kinda like the icing on the cake. Together we're holding a pair of idiots.

Woohoo! Hold those parents accountable! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413569)

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 school schooting rampages, you'd see more parents suddenly taking an interest in their children's lives and activities.

Parents need to raise (and control) their children. That is not the role of the government. And it is not the role of the public at large.

Re:Woohoo! Hold those parents accountable! (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413713)

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.

Re:Woohoo! Hold those parents accountable! (4, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Woohoo! Hold those parents accountable! (1)

LargeWu (766266) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413891)

Yeah, except "name-calling", as you put it, is called libel, and it's illegal. Texas isn't exactly the most enlightened place in the country, and being tagged a lesbian might do some serious harm to one's reputation. Furthermore, IANAL, but I believe private citizens do not need to prove actual damages to have a libel case.

Re:Woohoo! Hold those parents accountable! (1)

irregular_hero (444800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413917)

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? 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.

Re:Woohoo! Hold those parents accountable! (1)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413941)

That's it! I'm taking away my kid's computer and replacing it with a typewriter!

But seriously, this is why you want an umbrella liability insurance policy. Whether it's your kid or your dog or your spouse -- or you, yourself, you can be sued for just about anything, anytime. And, for what it's worth, there's nothing new about this. Parents *are* held responsible for the actions of their kids all the time.

(Do I sound like a grumpy parent, or what?)

Similar incident at another Texas school... (3, Informative)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413613)

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.

Re:Similar incident at another Texas school... (1)

RajivSLK (398494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413837)

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 under the noses of the entire student body you have just taught the entire school a bad life lesson.

Re:Similar incident at another Texas school... (1)

cabinetsoft (923481) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413911)

So what? Is this possible only on internet? I do recall doing same things in high school but only using flyers or posting ads in the matrimonial sections of different newspapers...

Teenagers do not invent things... they just use what's handy to do the same (bad or good) jokes pranks, carry their revenges and so on... If it would have been another's student instead of the teacher would it be the same? C'mon... how many phone numbers have you seen advertised on a closet's wall? Or in phone booths? Have you ever wrote the phone number of your ex girlfriend along with some lines of text?

And making parents responsable for all these acts is kind of stupid.

Punishing ignorance (4, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 7 years ago | (#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".

Re:Punishing ignorance (1)

tilandal (1004811) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413701)

Apparently many employers do. It is quit common for hiring managers to read your profile on social networking sites so dont post anything that you would not want soemone else to see.

Re:Punishing ignorance (4, Informative)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Punishing ignorance (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413839)

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, and had made suggestive, lewd and obscene comments based on the content of the webpage."

Re:Punishing ignorance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413969)

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.

Are you kidding? It may not affect her dating/mature social life but her career would go down the toilet. She deals with high schoolers everyday, the primary users of myspace. Even the minority of kids at the school who dont use it regularly would see the page at a friend's house or at least hear about it around the halls. She would have no credibility or respect in anything involving interacting with the students. Aside from the fact that the rest of the faculty would subsequently hear about it (teachers can be almost as gossipy as their students...) employers often view it too, as other replies to this have stated already.

She has every right to sue, and I hope she wins. She's probably awfully humiliated and embarassed, and slapping the kids on the wrists would do nothing to win back what she lost. Kids need to learn that the internet is far from anonymous and harmless.

Re:Punishing ignorance (1)

cabinetsoft (923481) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413975)

What if one frames someone else: makes a page like this, leaves some marks on it (like an email) that's used by another fellow and makes it look like it was made by the second fellow that didn't know how to cover his tracks -> endless amount of work for prosecutors, lawyers, police officers, etc... pretty stupid if you ask me...

Parental responsibility required (4, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#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!

Re:Parental responsibility required (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413733)

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?

Re:Parental responsibility required (4, Insightful)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Parental responsibility required (1)

Daemonstar (84116) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413967)

Also, at least in Texas law and in relation to property, parents are responsible for their children until the children reach the age of 18 (Family Code, Chapter 41).

Re:Parental responsibility required (1)

irregular_hero (444800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413999)

The difference here is that parents whose children grow up are supposed to transfer personal responsibility to them when they reach adulthood (unlike the pit bull).

(Unless the parents have a heated basement, three squares a day, and a broadband connection for an XBox, in which case personal responsibility may never develop.)

Nothing to see here... (1)

HuckleCom (690630) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413653)

Stupid person decides to sue stupid people for a stupid reason. And let's sue the grandparents because afterall, they birthed the negligant parents! Set em' up, knock em' down! Now move along...

Overblown (2, Insightful)

rbf2000 (862211) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413665)

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 anybody going to pay attention to it, and even if they do pay attention, how long are they going to remember it? Bringing a lawsuit will make even more people know about the incident, and assumedly, the teacher wants as few people to know that she had students calling her a lesbian, when she is in fact not.

How much legal responsibility? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413675)

The law's pretty clear on this one. Parents are 100% responsible for their minor children's actions, online or in meatspace.

Re:How much legal responsibility? (1)

1ucius (697592) | more than 7 years ago | (#16414021)

The traditional rule is that parents are NOT liable for their childrens' torts. As you might guess, however, most kids are 'judgement proof' in practice. To avoid being left SOL, some plaintiffs try to sue the parents for commiting their own torts, such as negiglent supervision. To win, however, the plaintiff will need to prove that the parents knew or should have known about their kids' activities. Not the easist thing if the kid is a teenager.

Privacy Issues (1)

zenithcoolest (981748) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413677)

Myspace isnt the only portal suffering from issues. Orkut, Facebook etc are among many other social forums which have become a bit more freedom and some people have taken well advantage of it. The fault lies in the way education system today as these websites will not change.

Why use the courts? (1)

dattaway (3088) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413683)

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.

Re:Why use the courts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413971)

In public educational systems, administrators' hands are tied regarding what can be done when students misbehave. If you do anything, parents will sue you. Different parents sue over different reasons, most of them pointless. Besides, this happened on a personal level, and not at school.

Concerning what the students may or may not have done in school for which they were disciplined ... if they broke the rules, they paid the consequences. When choosing whether or not to disregard established rules, you must decide whether the outcome is worth the repercussions. For the students to take this sort of counter-action, it sorta illustrates just what kind of people they are.

And while we are guaranteed Freedom of Speech, that doesn't cover slander and libel, which are offenses that are commonly resolved via courts. Just because it involves a school administrator vs students, combined with some Internet social networking site, doesn't mean that it's any different than any other suit against slander. Whether or not there is truth to her claims of inappropriate contacts based on the false information posted online, she was slandered and that is not Free Speech.

And do YOU know that this administrator did not already try contacting the parents, or perhaps have interactions with the parents in the past and know that dealing directly with them would not be sufficient?

Re:Why use the courts? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413995)

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.
I get the feeling that you have no idea what kind of restrictions a teacher or school employee is under.

Did you catch that video of those two girls attacking another girl on the school bus? It's been on TV. Well, if you're paying attention, you'll see the bus driver walk into the picture, presumably says "cut that out" and then walks back out of the frame, at which point other students break up the beat down.

You know why the bus driver didn't wade in? Because they could get sued.

It is a similar situation for teachers, they have open door policies, they get witnesses when confronting students, and god help a teacher who calls some kid a "fucking asshole" to their face.

It's like the corporate world x 100, because you're dealing with someone's baby and many parents will instantly go on the offensive instead of trying to work things out.

Some public school teachers put up with mountains of abuse, because there really isn't much they can do to put those kids in their place. "Think of the Children!!111eleven" has changed the student:teacher balance of power.

In other news... (0, Flamebait)

Cr0w T. Trollbot (848674) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413707)

...posting a story combining the words "Lesbian" and "MySpace" boosts Slashdot's page views by 25%!

Crow T. Trollbot

Slow down on the parent blame game (1)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413719)

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 irresponsibility.

So should parents be following their kids around full time? Because they could never get into trouble on the internet and still find PLENTY of trouble out in the real world. Parents *have* to let their kids go their own way, especially teenagers.

It's funny how people seem to want parents held responsible in everything their child does but want no blame for their part in the child's life. Parents should make sure their kids only play approved games, but retailers should be able to sell whatever game they want to the kids.

I'm somewhat divided (3, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413729)

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.

A wake up call for parents (4, Insightful)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413747)

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:A wake up call for parents (2, Insightful)

Generic Guy (678542) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413919)

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 responsibilities.

How do you prove an online case? (2, Insightful)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413749)

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/owned by someone else at the time?

It seems like you'd always have a reasonable doubt defense. "Your Honor, granted the attack came from my machine, but it wasn't me. I found a Zotob worm on my machine, and this person at high school who doesn't like me is always in the computer lab..."

Re:How do you prove an online case? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413871)

The standards for civil cases are much lower. It is based on a "perponderance of evidence". I would say that an IP address traced to a specific computer is sufficent enough to make a valid claim, coupled with the liability that legal guardians have over minors.

Re:How do you prove an online case? (1)

stubear (130454) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413937)

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:How do you prove an online case? (2, Informative)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413955)

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 located at the homes of the two students named in the complaint.

The original complaint is here: http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/Draker%20Orig inal%20petition.doc [ericgoldman.org]. However, the student's statement (referenced in the complaint as exhibit 1) is not included in this copy.

Re:How do you prove an online case? (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16414027)

The problem stems from the fact that this is a civil trial, not a criminal one. beyond a reasonable doubt only applies for criminal cases. In a civil trial the judge makes a decision based on the evidence presented. Since many judges can barely tell the diference between a PC and a bread machine, the evidence doesn't necessarily have to bear up to hard scrutiny.

Incidentally, a near perfect example of the differences between criminal and civil law would be the OJ Simpson case. He was aquitted on the murder rap (criminal law), but he lost the civil suit.

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/owned by someone else at the time?

Re:How do you prove an online case? (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 7 years ago | (#16414045)

Aside from the fact that, in civil cases, "reasonable doubt" doesn't apply, there is the fact that teenagers, by and large, can't keep secrets. My guess was that the identities of the miscreants was known throughout the school within days of the page being put up, probably because the culprits braged about it - after all, what's the point of a really good public prank if no one knows you did it?

Then word got to the adults, someone got pulled into an office for an informal interrogation, and all the names were divulged.

Then the administration confronted the students, who fessed up - after all, what could the school do to them?

I guess now the know the consequences of libel.

Am I the only one.. .. (2, Insightful)

Arwing (951573) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413783)

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 /.

"Good for the wrong reasons" (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413791)

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.

Re:"Good for the wrong reasons" (1)

Temuar Skylari (1008449) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413909)

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.

Most of the time, however, a comedian or actor is not honestly impersonating someone, merely mimicing them, and it's fairly easy to tell that they aren't REALLY the target of their satire. As far as the article says, it seems these teens made a MySpace page actually pretending they were this assistant principal, and then posting the lesbian claims and/or pictures (article doesn't get into specifics there). While I suppose it might not be correct to sue for libel, I sure hope there's some law preventing someone from impersonating me in order to ruin my reputation. Which, according to the article, is EXACTLY what these teens did.

Seems to check out (1)

Temuar Skylari (1008449) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413797)

I very much hope that this woman wins this case. Here's why.

1) The teens in question were committing libel

Seems correct, according to most legal libel definitions I've read. The statements about her being a lesbian were, as far as the article says, false and damaging. As those are the main criteria, libel has been committed.

2) The assistant principal is suing both the teens and their parents

I like this part in particular. For all the "OMG violent games make kids kill" cases that ignore parental involvment (or lack thereof), here's one that puts some responsibility on both parties. The teens are responsible directly for creating the fake MySpace, and the parents are responsible for what their children do. Note: this does NOT mean that parents should monitor all of their children's activity online. It means that, as you have raised the child a certain way, you are responsible for how they act based on that upbringing until they are 18.

If you raise your children well, they (hopefully) won't be foolish enough to do things like commit libel on the Internet. I add the hopefully because, well, kids are willful and resourceful. Hence why both the parents and teens are being sued.

Re:Seems to check out (1)

waif69 (322360) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413905)

I'm inclined to agree with parent post. Many people have abdicated personal/parental responsibility in raising their children. This would be a good step in waking some parents up and letting them know that being your children's best friend is not the job of a parent. It doesn't take a village to raise a child it takes two parents. I know that what I have declared is not PC, but since when has the truth been PC?

I'm surprised! (2, Funny)

mattkime (8466) | more than 7 years ago | (#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...

I hate my librarian, boss, etc. (1)

shawn443 (882648) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413833)

Maybe I should go to a public library or my office, post something inflammatory, and hope they get sued. Seriously, if these kids posted from a library (not outside of possibility), would she sue the library? At that age kids are too independent minded to say the parents are liable. Besides, this case is about libel and defamation. I have two kids. Thinking back as a teen and the shit I said, I hope I'm not held responsible for everything that comes out of their mouth when they are teenagers.

Re:I hate my librarian, boss, etc. (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 7 years ago | (#16414005)

They would trace the IP address of the originating comments. Note the time and then review the survalence taps to see who was using the computer in question at the time and sue them.

Reminder on Truancy Laws (1)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413843)

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 specific cases.

Re:Reminder on Truancy Laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16413961)

Were you a truant?

Re:Reminder on Truancy Laws (1)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 7 years ago | (#16414043)

No, I had too much of a sense of responsibility. I rarely missed school and if I did I had a doctor's excuse. I attribute my good GPA to my lack of absences which led to a good college experience and a good post collegiate career.

We need to make up our minds ... (4, Insightful)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Proposed kindergarten curriculum (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#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

Should be fired right now (2, Insightful)

techstar25 (556988) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413913)

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.

Super Duper... thanks for asking... (2, Funny)

h8macs (301553) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413923)

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!

Oh well (1)

LCookie (685814) | more than 7 years ago | (#16413925)

How lame, she's just pissed that she can't abuse her power without retaliation anymore!
For this alone she should be fired, a good principal should stand above this, not sue!
Way to go, lesbian or not, she's a coward loser.

Follow the money (2, Informative)

hotspotbloc (767418) | more than 7 years ago | (#16414023)

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.

Double standard for information (0, Troll)

boyfaceddog (788041) | more than 7 years ago | (#16414037)

So, on one hand schools teach that information from blogs and personal web pages is trivial and can't be trusted, and on the other hand the information is so important that it can ruin a person's life.

By suing someone for defamation of character over a personal web page, this person is legitimising the information on personal web sites. If she wins, MySpace and other sites like it will be even more legitimate.

Not the first time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16414039)

I've seen things like this happen before, though under slightly different circumstances.

A few years back, there was a local 8th grader who ran a simple personal web page... not myspace, but one of those "AIM sub-profile" things. He used it primarily to rant, often about classmates, and eventually the school administration caught wind of it. They called it harassment, and ordered him to take the site down or face suspension. Supposedly, he was also facing a lawsuit from the parents of one of someone he had slammed on the webpage.

I found this to be quite alarming, because I was under the impression that a school should not have any jurisdiction over the internet, outside of their own webspace. Not that I was surprised (middle schools are evil, after all), but in my eyes the school administrations was going over the line, by a lot. The internet should not be used as a(nother) tool for teachers and administrators to control students' lives outside of the classroom. It's not their place. I pay taxes for students to be educated, not to pay school staff to settle petty disputes between children.

He graduated from junior high a couple months later and put his site back up. Go him.
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