BURLINGTON, Conn.—An attorney for a high school student who brought a free speech lawsuit against her school district last year said he now plans to file a libel lawsuit against the principal.
Jon Schoenhorn, a Hartford attorney representing Avery Doninger, said he has served notice to Lewis S. Mills High School Principal Karissa Niehoff of the impending lawsuit.
Doninger and her family have been at odds with the district since last year, when Doninger used offensive slang to refer to administrators on an Internet blog. School officials removed her as class secretary, which Doninger said was a violation of her constitutional rights.
The case went as far as the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York as Doninger sought an injunction to regain her spot as class secretary and speak at her class graduation in June. The court rejected that request, but her lawsuit is pending.
The threat of a new libel lawsuit stems from an e-mail exchange that Niehoff had with a Wisconsin man who read about the legal case in the New York Post.
School administrators said Niehoff improperly disclosed information about Doninger in the exchange, which the man forwarded to Doninger's family. Niehoff was suspended for two days without pay for the incident.
Schoenhorn said Thursday that Niehoff will be sued for libel "for the false things she said to people about Avery."
A formal lawsuit has yet to be filed, and Schoenhorn declined to give details about when and where the suit might be filed.
Niehoff's attorney, Christine Chinni, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
Doninger's mother, Lauren, said Niehoff was punished for making a comment and distributing it on the Internet, the same reason cited for the punishment of her daughter, she said.
"It's not a decision we made lightly," she said. "The irony is too overwhelming that Avery, at 16, made some ill-considered remarks and sent them into cyberspace, and she was punished relentlessly. The principal effectively does the same thing. Does she expect no consequences?"
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
This from the Boston Globe; Backstory from KSN&C: