Slander and Harassment

4 posts in this topic

I'm 19 and still in high school, working on my last year. I go to school in Diagonal, Iowa. I am constantly being harassed and slandered against by a 17 year old student, though it seems childish of me to want to put charges on her, it's gotten to the point to where I walk into my local Walmart and people who know her, but I don't know them, all point and laugh at me and whisper as I walk by. She has constantly called me names to people I know and don't know, got three other people involved that all hate me, but used to be my friends. They say I'm a whore, I'm pregnant, then threatened to beat me up, amongst other things. I've seen the text messages from people who are still my friends, which isn't many people, I've listened into conversations, I've witnessed it happening. I've tried to ignore it, I've blocked them from facebook and blocked their numbers from my phone. I've told the principal, yet it still hasn't stopped. Do I have any rights as a student in Iowa? What can I do?

I don't want to switch schools, this is my last year and I don't want to ruin anything, but I don't want to be in an environment that I'm obviously not welcome. Is there anything legal I can do that will protect me from her and the other people without switching schools? This has cause my anxiety and depression to get worse, I don't know how much longer I can put up with this.

Please help me.

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Unfortunately, there's not much you can do. Spreading lies about you is not against the law (freedom of speech and all that) so you can't have this person arrested and charged with anything. If the lies are slanderous -- that is, they damage your reputation in such a way that you suffer physical, financial or emotional damage you could have cause for a lawsuit, but that's a pretty long shot. Suits for slander are expensive to mount and very difficult to win, and you'd have to prove that the emotional damage you suffer was caused by the slander and not other issues. Simply being called a whore or pregnant would not usually be considered as cause for slander. Of course you are free to discuss the matter with a local personal injury attorney.

Threats are a different story. If anyone makes credible threats of physical harm to yourself or your property, you could have cause to seek a restraining order to keep them away from you. Of course, that will do nothing to stop the nasty talk, and could even make it worse.

It seems to me, going only by what's in yuour brief message, that you'll just have to tough it out until you graduate, and then you can leave and never look back. I know that's not what you want to hear. I'm sorry.

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I'd feel free to pester your legislative representatives to write a nasty note to this principal's boss, and to pester the school board. School is free to expel or discipline kids for violating a code of conduct even if it's outside school. (That may, as suggested, make matters worse.)

As for:

"Spreading lies about you is not against the law (freedom of speech and all that) ..."

This is flatly incorrect as a blanket assertion. The 1st Amendment, as folks need to understand, applies to what restrictions a *government* may impose on a person, and even then there are exceptions.

"This io you can't have this person arrested and charged with anything."

Depends on the lie, actually, and where it's taking place. There is still such a thing as criminal libel per se that is chargeable in, last count, 17 places in the U.S. and territories; unfortunately, Iowa isn't one of them (the basis for those laws is actually maligning a female's character/chastity, but it's applicable to any number of situations). Now whether someone would prosecute, who knows -- don't hold your breath (if you know someone who knows someone, perhaps, or "are" someone).

It may be that a nasty note from an attorney to certain folks demanding retractions might scare the little buggers into behaving in a civil way. Can't know from here.

There are also types of defamation/libel that a person needn't establish particular damages to successfully pursue.

There are also false light invasion of privacy claims that are viable (where even if it were true that you'd done X-Y-Z, that doesn't mean this person is entitled to broadcast it to a given audience with reckless disregard knowing it will cause you harm).

All that said, there are many resources available to read about how to handle high school jerks.

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