(CN) – A New Jersey teacher can proceed with a defamation lawsuit against a teacher who accused her of threatening to kill everyone in her class, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled.
Sopharie Leang taught English as a second language in the Jersey City school system. She challenged the schools’ decision not to renew her contract, claiming that she was not provided with a mentor and the proper textbooks.
She blamed these deficiencies on retaliation from Vladimir Ashworth, a fellow ESL teacher whose alleged sexual interest she did not return.
The stories diverge regarding an incident on June 24, 2002. Leang claims that she was talking about stress-induced laryngitis when she said, “My doctor said the amount of stress in my body could have killed some people.”
Ashworth, who was in the classroom, called the police. He insisted that Leang said, “I’m so stressed out I could kill 22 people.”
There were 22 students in Leang’s class.
Leang became distraught when she was taken to the nurse’s office, and she was described as “irate,” “upset” and “frantic” by the EMTs who came to her assistance.
Leang sued the school, the police and the medical personnel. The trial court ruled against Leang, but Justice Hoens reinstated her defamation, breach of contract, false imprisonment, and assault and battery claims.
“A reasonable person would consider the school defendants’ accusations that she threatened to kill 22 students, if untrue, to be defamatory,” Hoens wrote.
However, Leang did not succeed on her claims of sexual harassment “as to the Board, because the plaintiff made no complaints, and as to (the principal) and Ashworth because they of a lack of proof that they engaged in an act of aiding and abetting,” Hoens ruled.