8th-Grade Novelist Accused of Defamation
DALLAS (CN) - The mother of an eighth-grade girl sued her daughter's classmate and his parents, claiming the boy defamed her daughter in a lurid novel he wrote, using classmates' real names, then published online, with help from his parents.
Plaintiff M.P., the mother of 14-year-old E.T., says the novel written by her daughter's 14-year-old classmate "uses E.T. as a main character, placing her in unfathomable, graphic scenes ranging from immoral and demeaning to shocking and illegal." The boy's novel, called "Nobody's Perfect," allegedly depicts one teacher as a "pedophile," using his real name.
Both students are eighth-graders at Highland Park Middle School, according to the complaint in Dallas County Court.
The young author, N.C., is the child of divorced parents, defendants Lisa Halvorson and Stephen Cannon, both of whom are physicians and professors at Southwestern Medical School, according to the complaint.
The girl's mother says N.C. wrote the 362-page novel "while under the supervision of defendants Lisa Halvorson and Stephen Cannon, using computer(s) purchased by them."
The complaint continues: "In the book N.C. identifies approximately 30 students from Highland Park Middle School, including E.T. In the book, N.C. uses the real names (in many cases the full names) of Highland Park Middle School students, teachers and parents. N.C. uses E.T. as a main character, placing her in unfathomable, graphic scenes ranging from immoral and demeaning to shocking and illegal.
"In an effort to conceal his true intent to portray these children in a false light, N.C.'s story takes place in 11th grade instead of 8th grade. N.C. also attempts to call his book 'fiction' in the Acknowledgment and falsely indicates he had E.T.'s permission to use her name and that she agreed 'to have such horrible things done to her in the book.' In reality he did not have permission, and his intent was to portray E.T. and the other children negatively and with the intent to damage their reputations and cause them severe mental anguish."
The girl's mom says her daughter and N.C. were casual acquaintances.
"Sometime during 7th grade, N.C. approached E.T. and informed her that he was writing a book and that she was a character," the complaint states. "He told her that she would be 'date raped' in the book. As a young girl without an understanding of what 'date rape' implies, E.T. simply responded with, 'Oh, OK.' While she felt it was 'creepy' she was conflicted because she knows to always 'be nice.' When N.C. told her he was writing a book, E.T. believed it was going to be 'like a 3 page essay on notebook paper' because she could have never imagined a 13-year-old writing a full-length, published novel. When N.C. mentioned to E.T. what would happen in the book, E.T. never understood and could not have possibly comprehended the extent to which horrific acts would be carried out. Instead of truthfully disclosing the content of the book to E.T., he quietly wrote of multiple 'incidents' that E.T. could never fathom or believe anyone could or would write about her. E.T. never agreed or consented to such false, deceitful, and twisted statements."
The mother says the book contains "multiple defamatory statements about E.T. The 'horrible things' that N.C. writes about E.T. are a damning depiction of her moral character, that has forever damaged her reputation in the community, and her innocence. Among other lewd depictions of E.T. performing sexual acts, N.C. authored a surreal scene depicting E.T., after being drugged and raped by a classmate, imagining she was going to be 'murdered.' The intent of N.C. was to cause harm to E.T. and with his book he has caused permanent harm to the spirit, and mind of E.T. Although the depiction of E.T. in the book is false, her reputation has been permanently damaged by scenes in the book that are too graphic and vile to be included in this filing."
The mom says N.C. published the book online on Sept. 1, "with the supervision and consent" of his parents. "On information and belief, despite the graphic content of the book, Lisa Halvorson and Stephen Cannon paid for the production and publication of the book online," the complaint states.
"A preview of the book which contained excerpts were downloaded by the public. N.C. published at least five hardbound copies of the book and made it available for distribution and provided copies that were circulated at the Highland Park Middle School. Defendants Lisa Halvorson and Stephen Cannon purchased at least five copies of the book collectively and had such books in their possession."
The middle school principal "quickly became aware of N.C.'s publication of the book and efforts to share the book with students," the mom says. She says the principal got ahold of a copy of the book and decided that it "contained obscene content which was damaging to some of the students and disruptive to the school environment. In fact, one Highland Park Middle School teacher is depicted as a 'pedophile' in the book and his real name is used. Highland Park Middle School immediately placed N.C. on a 4 day in-school suspension. At the request of Stephen Cannon and Lisa Halvorson and following an in school investigation, Highland Park Middle School officials have now allowed N.C. to return to school and therefore E.T. is now exposed to N.C."
The mother and daughter seek punitive damages for libel, slander, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by Anthony Vitullo, with Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo.