TEXAS — Clark High School Assistant Principal Anna Draker sued two of her students last month for libel after they allegedly made personal attacks against her using the Web site MySpace.com.
Draker seeks unspecified damages, claiming she experienced “out-of-pocket” losses from missing workdays and seeking medical attention. Her attorney says her priority is that she wants to ensure that the students learn from their mistake.
Draker claims Benjamin Schreiber and Ryan Todd, both 16 years old, created a MySpace profile for her and posted false information, including doctored photographs, fabricated quotes and information indicating Draker was a lesbian.
Murphy Klasing, Draker’s attorney, said the married mother of two was “devastated.” He said that Draker only wants accountability from the students, to ensure that they do not “get away” with the emotional and physical damage she experienced.
Bexar County District Attorney Jill Mata has also filed a criminal charge against Schreiber, according to the San Antonio Express-News. But Mata refused to confirm the identity of the student charged because he is a juvenile. The teenager is charged with computer fraud, a state felony. A hearing in that case is set for Oct. 16.
Mata said that with complaints about comments published online, “elements of proof” necessary for a criminal charge are difficult to establish.
“In this case, we had additional evidence. We are not concerned with the parents, but we’re mainly looking at the child’s conduct,” said Mata.
In addition to the lawsuit against her students, Draker filed negligence claims against the parents for lack of supervision of their children.
“What’s interesting is that this case raised a bunch of questions of parental responsibility for supervising kids’ use of the Internet,” Klasing said. “For some of the pictures, they would have had to go to porno sites.”
Draker is not the first person to accuse others of illegal action on a social networking site, but Klasing said the case could create precedent in dealing with defamation and libel on the Internet.
Klasing said he anticipates a fair amount of time before a court date is set for their civil case.
“She thought long and hard how to deal with [the situation]. Anna’s biggest concern was that these kids, in a couple years, will be adults, and they will have been taught that they can humiliate someone like this and get away with it,” Klasing said.
Draker said she is not at liberty to comment on the case, but Klasing said he remains confident about the success of the claim.
One student wrote and signed a letter of confession and admitted that he did not create the site alone.
To succeed in her libel claim, Draker will have to prove that readers of the Web site read the statements posted there as factual.
Klasing says Draker chose to pursue a case because she loves kids and wants to teach a valuable lesson.