Principal sues former students for MySpace page

PENNSYLVANIA — A high school principal has sued four of his former students for defamation of character claiming they created three parody profiles that claimed he smoked marijuana, kept beer at school and enjoyed having sex with students.

Hermitage High School Principal Eric Trosch said the three Internet profiles created in December 2005 humiliated him, damaged his reputation and limited his earning capacity, according to the Associated Press.

The profiles “went far and beyond what you would see on a bathroom wall in a school,” Trosch’s attorney, John E. Quinn, told the Associated Press. The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages.

But Trosch’s lawsuit is not the first filed in the situation.

Former Hermitage student Justin Layshock received a 10-day out-of-school suspension after admitting to creating one of the profiles during his senior year. He finished high school in an alternative education program and was not allowed to attend his graduation in the spring.

Layshock, who currently studies at St. John’s University in New York, acknowledged creating one of the profiles in a federal lawsuit he filed along with his parents.

The Layshocks are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and say the profile was protected by the First Amendment and the school’s punishment violated Layshock’s rights.

“I think they just wanted someone’s head on the platter to make an example,” Layshock said in a telephone interview, referring to his suspension and placement in alternative classes.

Also named in Trosch’s lawsuit are former students Thomas Cooper, who allegedly created a page that said Trosch’s favorite movie was pornographic, and brothers Brendan and Christopher Gephart, who allegedly created a page that said Trosch liked having sex with students and abusing women, according to the Associated Press.

Quinn described a fourth MySpace profile whose author is unknown as “the most graphic and lurid of them all,” according to the Associated Press.

By Jared Taylor, SPLC staff writer

  • School district blames ACLU for student’s defamation claim News Flash, 3/3/2006