Saying untrue bad things about a private school

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Saying untrue bad things about a private school

I am a small private school Director having an issue with a former employee. She is telling people to withdraw students and indicating of social media that it is an awful school and she can’t talk about it because I made her sign a non-disclosure. I did not. I actually do not make them sign it. On advice of a lawyer friend and hopes that this was somehow a misunderstanding, I contacted her via email and asked to have coffee. I can send the emails. They were non-specific and did not address any concerns. I really just need her to be quiet. I did not know at the time of taking her in as a long-term sub that she has a history of doing this and did this at a previous location in GA. She destroyed a woman’s life by claiming she molested her daughter. There wasn’t any proof. She did it through social media. What can I do?

Asked on December 3, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If she did not sign a non-disparagement (basically, "don't badmouth") agreement (either a stand alone agreement, or a nondisparagement clause as part of another agreement), all you can do is sue her to stop actual defamation and/or to get monetary compensation for defamation. 
Defamation has a narrow meaning in the law: it is not merely badmouthing you. It is specifically making a false factual statement which damages your reputation. Opinions, no matter how negative, are not defamation: someone can call you "awful" and that is legal, since that is an opinion. True facts, even if bad for you, are not defamation, either. As stated, only an untrue negative factual claim about you is defamation. An example would be if she claimed that a teacher at your school commited sexual abuse, or that your school lies when applying for government funding, or has abestos or lead paint--those are all negative factual assertions.
If she has made such untrue negative factual assertions, then you can, as stated, sue for monetary compensation or a court order prohibiting her from doing this. If you wish to pursue this option, consult with a personal injury lawyer (the same attorneys who do slip-and-falls or car accident cases also do defamation cases).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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