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FAYETTEVILLE, Georgia (WXIA) – A school district trying to teach students about internet safety is getting a lesson of its own on privacy, search and seizure.
A former Starr’s Mill High School student is suing the Fayette County School District for $2 million for using a picture of her in a bathing suit at a countywide presentation.
Chelsea Chaney posted a picture to her Facebook page of her in a bathing suit standing next to a cardboard cutout of Snoop Dog. She says her mother took it during a family vacation at the lake. Her privacy settings were designated so friends and friends-of-friends could view it.
Chaney says she never imagined a district administrator would see it, let alone use it in a presentation to her peers.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Chaney says Curtis Cearley, the technology services director for the county, searched for a picture he could use in a presentation on internet safety.
Right before it, she said, was a cartoon of a child, shocked to see her mom’s old Facebook page.
“Because her Facebook page portrays her as a promiscuous abuser of alcohol,” said Chaney’s attorney Pete Wellborn.
Chaney said the two images back to back defamed her character, causing her emotional distress during a time that should have been one of the happiest of her life: her senior year.
Chaney wanted an assembly to clear up the district’s actions, or a face-to-face apology. When all she got was a letter, Chaney said she pursued legal action to send a message to the district that something like this should never happen again.
In the lawsuit, Wellborn listed more than a dozen reasons why they feel the district’s action were illegal, citing some of its own policies around social media and privacy.
The school district said it can’t comment, but court records show both Cearley and the district have tried to get the case dismissed.
Cearley says in his defense filing, the photo was an open record, that he never intended to humiliate anyone and shouldn’t be responsible for Chaney’s decision to post it online.