ERIC Number: ED226442
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1982-Dec
Reference Count: N/A
Defamation: A Worry for All Seasons. A Legal Memorandum.
Schwartz, Allen D.
Principals and other educators fear litigation over defamation. Defamation means an injury to character or reputation by false, malicious statements, whether by printed words (libel) or by spoken words (slander). To constitute defamation, the words must be actionable, defamatory, refer to the plaintiff, and be communicated to others. If the words are not on their face harmful, the plaintiff may have to prove harm. A major issue in defamation concerns whether the plaintiff or defendant is a public or private figure; public figures need to show the words are malicious, whereas private figures do not. Twenty-one cases involving educators, in which the question of public or private figure had to be determined, are reviewed. Eight cases concern the educator as plaintiff and involve teachers, coaches, principals, and college administrators filing suit. The 13 cases in which the educator is the defendant involve college teachers suing administrators, parents suing school doctors, and school teachers suing administrators and boards. The defenses noted against defamation suits include the truth of the statements and the defendant's privilege, either absolute (in legislative, judicial, quasi-judicial, or executive proceedings) or qualified (involving fair comment on public matters or figures), to use the words. (RW)
Descriptors: Administrators, Court Litigation, Elementary Secondary Education, Federal Courts, Higher Education, Legal Problems, Public Officials, Public Opinion, Reputation, State Courts, Teachers
Publications, National Association of Secondary School Principals, 1904 Association Drive, Reston, VA 22091 ($.50; quantity discounts).
Publication Type: Legal/Legislative/Regulatory Materials; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: National Association of Secondary School Principals, Reston, VA.