Elizabeth Lyon-Ballay, through her attorney Matt Campbell, has responded to a lawsuit by Henderson Middle School Principal Yaa Appiah-McNulty by saying it should be dismissed.
Earlier this week, Appiah-McNulty sued Lyon-Ballay alleging she’d been libeled by an article on the “Orchestrating Change” webpage about discipline at Henderson. The item recounted a grievance by teachers over the principal’s response to a teachers’ meeting on discipline. It also raised a question about the accuracy of disciplinary records at the school.
Appiah-McNulty, among others, said the item falsely accused her of altering discipline records. Campbell’s response said the article said “somebody” had made changes to records, but did not name Appiah-McNulty. The response prepared by Campbell includes screen shots of what appear to be deletions of disciplinary reports from school records. Students’ names are masked.
Campbell’s response, in addition to disputing specific claims of defamation, asserts that Lyon-Ballay is entitled to protection under a 2005 state law, the Citizen Participation in Government Act. It provides a shield for those exercising free speech on government issues. It’s aimed at discouraging lawsuits to quell dissenting views, or SLAPP suits (strategic lawsuits against political participation).
Campbell wrote that Lyon-Ballay’s posts about the Little Rock School District are “privileged communications” within the meaning of the law as criticism of acts by public officials. Further, he said they were “based on documents and statements obtained from LRSD or its employees or agents, and nothing in those posts was written with any knowledge or reckless disregard of falsity thereof, as Defendant had documentation and source material for every assertion made.”