Are principals "public figures?"
Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky. He also is the Founding Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), the nation’s only academic center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, and was a co-creator of the wildly popular video series, Did You Know? (Shift Happens). He has received numerous national awards for his technology leadership work, including recognitions from the cable industry, Phi Delta Kappa, and the National School Boards Association. In Spring 2011 he was a Visiting Canterbury Fellow at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Dr. McLeod blogs regularly about technology leadership issues at Dangerously Irrelevant and Mind Dump, and occasionally at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at scottmcleod.net.
Defamation can be either
written (libel) or spoken (slander) and is generally defined as false statements
of fact that harm another's reputation. The United States Supreme Court ruled in
1964 that public officials must prove "actual malice" in order to win a
defamation lawsuit(New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254).
Actual malice is defined as publication despite knowledge that the
statement was false or with reckless disregard for whether it was false. Truth
always is a defense against a defamation lawsuit unless there is malicious
intent. Also, written or spoken communication that is readily understood to be a
satire, parody, or humorously intended situation generally is not found to be
defamatory because the audience understands that the writing/speech is not
intended to be a statement of fact.
The New York Times principle was later extended to "public figures"
(see Curtis Pub. Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130 (1967). A public
figureis someone who commands "a substantial amount of public
interest by his position alone or has thrust himself by purposeful activity into
the vortex of an important public controversy" (19 A.L.R.5th 1).
school administrators considered to be public figures for purposes of a
defamation lawsuit? Well, as is usually the case with the law, it
Courts have ruled that principals ARE public figures in
- New York (Jee v. New York Post Co., Inc., 671 N.Y.S.2d 920 (1998));
F.Supp. 1439 (1993)).
Courts have ruled that principals ARE NOT public figures
- Georgia (Ellerbee v. Mills, 262 Ga. 516 (1992));
Superintendents and assistant superintendents generally have been found by
courts to be public figures (see, e.g., Di Bernardo v. Tonawanda Pub.
Corp., 499 N.Y.S.2d 553 (1986)); Kefgen v. Davidson, 617 N.W.2d
351 (2000); and Beck v. Lone Star Broadcasting, Co., 970 S.W.2d 610
So will the
former principal of Hickory High School in Hermitage, Pennsylvaniawin his
lawsuit against the four students who created parody
MySpace profilesof him? Only if the court determines that
- the principal is not a public figure, and
statements of fact rather than parodies, satire, or humor.
Given past case law, #1 could go either way but I'm guessing that #2 will
be pretty hard to prove. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Fryer, for bringing this case to my attention!]
19 American Law Reports (5th) 1. Who is "public figure" for purposes of
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Giving our solar system a "slap in the face."
- A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
- It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
- Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.
- Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
- In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
- Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.