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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

High School Paper’s Next Lesson in Court

MIAMI (CN) - A student at Ronald Reagan High School claims the school newspaper defamed him by using his photo without his consent to illustrate a story about sexually transmitted diseases.

Kenneth Clements claims the school newspaper, the Reagan Advocate, used him "as the poster child for a teen with sexually transmitted disease, even though there was absolutely no basis to conclude he had contracted such a disease."

Clements was a senior on Feb. 4, 2011, when the Advocate ran the story under the headline, "Teens Stay Quiet About STD's," with a photo of him with an X over his mouth, according to his complaint.

He sued Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Miami-Dade County Court.

Ronald Reagan High School is in Doral, a western suburb of Miami.

Clements claims the photo "implied the plaintiff was covertly hiding the alleged sexually transmitted disease, and thus implying the plaintiff may knowingly be transmitting the disease to other persons, which is utterly despicable and utterly false."

The complaint states: "Kenneth Clements never discussed or was even interviewed by any member of the Miami-Dade County School District, his high school newspaper or anyone else about whether he was infected with a sexually transmitted disease.

"However, on February 4, 2011, the defendant published a story in the school newspaper titled 'Teens Stay Quiet About STD's.' The story featured a photograph of the plaintiff with an 'X' over his mouth.

"The defendant published the plaintiff's picture as pictorial demonstration of a teen that had a sexually transmitted disease, with the 'x' indicating he was keeping quiet about an alleged sexually transmitted disease.

"The publication was reviewed by a faculty advisor and the principle [sic] before being allowed to be disseminated."

Clements adds: "The publication was made with malice towards the truth, as the plaintiff was chosen as the poster child for a teen with sexually transmitted disease, even though there was absolutely no basis to conclude he had contracted such a disease. ...

"(T)he defendant, through its agents, apparent agents and/or employees was negligent in publishing false statement and representations by utilizing a photograph of the plaintiff with an 'x' on his mouth, without ever substantiating that he had any sexually transmitted disease, which was below the standard of care and unreasonable under the circumstances."

He seeks damages for defamation. He is represented by Harry Shevin, with Domnick & Shevin, of Palm Beach Gardens.

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