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Orlando private school sues blogging parent

The mom says she wants to warn others about conditions her child faced in kindergarten.

Associated Press
Published November 19, 2007


ORLANDO - A private school says that the mother of a former student crossed the line in a critical Internet blog she wrote about her daughter's experiences there.

So the New School of Orlando Inc. sued Sonjia McSween to stop her from publishing and talking about the school and force her to pay damages.

Some say it's a case of censorship. Others say First Amendment rights have nothing to do with it.

"Lots of people, private and public, can have thin skins," said Rebecca Jeschke, spokeswoman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates digital free-speech rights and maintains a legal guide for bloggers. "People need to get used to this new world where everyone has a soapbox and can use it."

McSween says she created the blog to warn parents about what happened when her now 7-year-old daughter, Logan, attended kindergarten at the school.

The lawsuit, filed in October, says McSween posted "false and otherwise libelous remarks" alleging that students were belittled and exposed to "extreme stress" and "dictatorial conditions." Among other things, she also alleged that the school told parents how to run their homes and threatened them for speaking negatively about the 120-student school.

The school, for kindergarten through eighth grade, alleges that McSween deliberately told unflattering lies, causing enrollment to drop. It alleges defamation, libel, slander and interference with business relations.

"When I created this Web site, I did not do it with malice," said McSween, a 28-year-old single mother who plans to meet with an attorney soon. "I created it with disappointment about my experience."