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Thursday, June 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Principal Says Newspaper Defamed Her

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (CN) - A public school principal claims the Virginian-Pilot newspaper defamed her by reporting that she "coerced teachers into fabricating students' work to help win state accreditation, then lied to get a teacher fired who refused to cheat and who reported testing problems to the division and the state."

Lafayette-Winona Middle School Principal Cassandra Goodwyn says the newspaper "permanently stigmatized the plaintiff as being an unethical, incompetent, dishonest, and unlawful public school principal."

The school at issue is in Norfolk.

Goodwyn says the March 10, 2010 article falsely reported that "a panel of investigators found Lafayette-Winona Middle School Principal Cassandra Goodwyn severely disciplined a whistle-blowing teacher," in addition to its report of coercion, fabrication and lying.

Goodwyn sued the Virginian-Pilot Media Cos. in City Court. She says the defamatory article was written by Steven Vegh, Harry Minium and Amy Jeter, who named in the complaint, but not named as defendants.

The complaint states: "The article also falsely stated, referring to the plaintiff, that '[t]hey have me cut and pasting out correct answers from failing tests and pasting them all together in the VGLA binder which makes it look like the student it getting all questions right even though they may have gotten failing scores on the various papers I cut from. All of the forgoing statements and implications refer to the plaintiff and were false."

The VGLA is the Virginia Grade Level Alternative test, which may be given only to students with disabilities, including students whose native language is not English.

Goodwyn claims, "The Virginian-Pilot deliberately withheld favorable information concerning Ms. Goodwyn from others, for the specific purpose of presenting an unbalanced, defamatory impression so as to do harm to the professional reputation and livelihood of Ms. Goodwyn," her complaint states.

She says the newspaper "made the statements knowing they were false and with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity, and after having been put on notice that the statements relating to the plaintiff were false."

Goodwyn seeks $5 million in damages. She is represented by Jeremiah Denton III of Virginia Beach.

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