GA court rules that parents can be held liable for children’s Facebook posts

A Georgia court recently ruled that the parents of two middle school students may be held liable for a fake Facebook account they setup that ridiculed a classmate.  

In 2011, Dustin Athearn and Melissa Snodgrass created a fake Facebook account that featured a picture of classmate Alexandria Boston taken with the “fat face” app. The page contained explicit language suggesting that Alexandria held racist viewpoints and was homosexual. Shortly after Alexandria discovered that Dustin and Melissa were the source of the page, the two admitted their involvement and each signed a written statement. The school’s principal also notified the children’s parents and placed them on a two day in-school suspension. However, the Facebook page remained accessible for an additional 11 months and wasn’t deactivated, by Facebook, until shortly after Alexandria’s parents filed suit against the two students.

The original complaint was dismissed by the Cobb County Superior Court in favor of the defendants but was ultimately reversed by the state Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals specifically stated that the parents could not be held responsible for the initial creation of the page, however their negligence in allowing the page to remain active for an additional 11 months is actionable as one of the sources which caused the resulting injuries.

In response to the court’s decision, Natalie Woodward, the attorney representing Alexandria, stated that in “certain circumstances, when what is being said about a child is untrue and once the parents know about it, then liability is triggered.”
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