24 June, 2016
Most schools will be aware of the challenges that social media plays in the bullying of pupils. But what of teachers? Take the case of Calliope Tardios, who is head teacher of St John's Preparatory School. She was subject to a social media campaign by a disgruntled parent, Pamella Linton, who made unfounded allegations including aggressive conduct, verbal abuse, unhygienic practices and doing psychological harm to pupils. Not only did Mrs Linton launch this attack, she did so while hiding behind a pseudonym of Patricia Carpenter. She backed it up with emails said to come from ex pupils, and by comments purporting to come from outsiders.
The case came before the High Court in 2015, where the Judge declared himself satisfied on the evidence that Patricia Carpenter and Pamella Linton were the same person.
The Judge in the case found that the comments were defamatory and ordered Mrs Linton to pay Mrs Tardios £70,000 and the school £20,000.
The case illustrates a number of issues that may arise in relation to campaigns of harassment via social media. Who is carrying out the campaign and how do you prove it, what is the practical effect of the campaign, who is in receipt of the defamatory material and what do they make of it. Finally and perhaps most difficult to deal with in practice, is it worth bringing a court claim, or will that simply give more publicity to the 'cause'.
Here at Forbes we have expertise in providing swift and practical advice to individuals and organisations who are subjected to defamatory comments, whether they be published on social media or otherwise.
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