Yaa Appiah-McNulty, principal of Henderson Middle School, has sued a blogger who writes on education topics for a report on discipline issues at the school.
According to the lawsuit filed in Pulaski Circuit Court, Appiah-McNulty alleges Elizabeth Lyon-Ballay, who writes the Orchestrating Change webpage, had libeled her in an account of the handling of a teachers’ complaint and falsely indicated she’d altered or destroyed student records.
March 17, Lyon-Ballay wrote about a range of issues in the Little Rock School District, including a grievance signed by 24 teachers about Appiah-McNulty’s response to a teacher meeting on discipline at the school.
The lawsuit says it was defamatory for Lyon-Ballay to characterize her as having “admonished” the teachers for holding a meeting on discipline without her. She said that was a “fiction.”
In a response to the grievance, obtained by Lyon-Ballay under the Freedom of Information Act, Appiah-McNulty had written:
I do confirm addressing the faculty about a building-wide concern that was not shared with the building administrator and how that affects the unity of Henderson and the importance of working together as a united team. As a building administrator, I will often address the faculty when an issue or problem arises that may affect or is affecting the team and our unity. I expect the same as building principal to be included in such issues. We have a Continuous Improvement Committee (CIC) to assist in this area.
She also said:
Individuals may choose to meet; however, as the building administrator, I would expect that I would be made aware of a large organized meeting to discuss a building concern. Further, if a building issue concern is to be discussed in a scheduled meeting as a team at Henderson, I do expect to be notified.
The school district ultimately dismissed the grievance, the lawsuit said.
Appiah-McNulty’s lawsuit disputes the blogger’s description of discipline policy at the school as “dysfunctional.” She also says she was defamed by Lyon-Ballay’s reporting on Henderson disciplinary records she obtained from the School District. The lawsuit recounts that the blogger said she had evidence that some records had been removed from the school database before the information was provided to her. The principal’s lawsuit said the blogger might have screenshots of such information. If so, the lawsuit said, whoever obtained them could be guilty of violating student privacy law.
The lawsuit accuses the blogger of publishing three defamatory articles. It says the first was “republished” by a link to Lyon-Ballay’s report on the Arkansas Blog in an item that included a paragraph summarizing Lyon-Ballay’s reporting on Henderson.
The suit seeks actual and punitive damages.
Matt Campbell, who’s representing Lyon-Ballay, responded: “It’s an absurd lawsuit that conflates defamation with the plaintiff’s embarrassment that certain things were revealed.”