The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

State, national, world

January 6, 2013

Mom sues over unclothed Twitter pic of daughter

TULSA, Okla. — The mother of a Booker T. Washington High School girls basketball player is seeking more than $75,000 in damages from Tulsa Public Schools, Twitter and others after a picture of her daughter in her underwear was circulated online following a basketball game last school year.

She filed suit against Tulsa Public Schools and Twitter as well as two students and their parents on Dec. 28, Tulsa County District Court filings show.

The petition asserts that her daughter, 16, was physically restrained and photographed by two of her teammates after a basketball game in Sand Springs on Nov. 23, 2011. The picture was posted on Twitter and circulated among her peers for several weeks, which the suit alleges resulted in bullying, including physical attacks, according to the document.

The mother filed a report with the Sand Springs Police Department on the day of the incident, said Deputy Police Chief Mike Carter. One of the girls in the locker room where the photograph was taken reportedly had made a comment about the victim's underwear before the assault, the police report indicates.

Carter said an investigator attempted to contact the mother on at least one occasion to follow up on the report but was unable to reach her. The case is pending and may result in a municipal misdemeanor charge of assault or disturbing the peace.

A basketball coach who was alerted to the incident reportedly told the mother he would "handle the issue."

In the suit, the mother alleges that her daughter was physically and verbally assaulted throughout the remainder of the school year.

When she contacted Booker T. Washington administrators, they told her there "was nothing they could do about the verbal and physical assaults being committed upon" her daughter, the mother contends in the petition.

She also alleges in the lawsuit that school administrators also told her when she attempted to contact district administration that "she needed to drop her complaint because these incidents make the school look bad."

The suit maintains that the school district was negligent of its duties by failing to "use reasonable care in the administration of school-sponsored activities which required students to undress in front of each other and to protect against the unwanted taking of photographs of each student while undressing."

The mother also alleges that the school failed to prevent the injuries her daughter suffered after the picture was posted.

The mother and her daughter are represented by Donald Smolen II, Laura Lauth and Jack Beesley of Smolen, Smolen and Roytman.

A Union High School student recently pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from a Twitter post in August after he allegedly photographed a mentally disabled student using a urinal and shared it with friends using the site.

Jonathan David DeVito, 18, pleaded guilty in October to misdemeanor charges of being a peeping Tom and one count of violating the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act.

He received a 14-month sentencing deferral and was ordered to complete 60 hours of community service, with 20 of those hours to be specifically related to speaking at church youth groups, schools or other organizations related to anti-bullying or social media topics. He was also required to write a letter of apology to the victim and his family.


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