Legal Question in Personal Injury in Missouri

i was called a racist

I was told by another teacher at our school that everyone believes I am a racist. I am white male teaching in a prdominately African Am. environment. The woman who told me this is an African Amercian. I brought this accusation to the attention of our administrator who said she would be sure to talk to her. After their discussion the woman who accused me of this came and verbally assaulted me in front of four other staff members, two of whom restrained her while I went back to my classroom. My question is would this constitute slander or defamation of character. If so what should I do to pursue legal action against her. I just don't want this woman doing this to someone else everytime she gets upset with someone. Thanks for your help.

Asked on 11/10/03, 8:57 pm

4 Answers from Attorneys

Nima Taradji Taradji Law Offices

Re: i was called a racist

You may have a cause of action for slander specially if you are hurt in your professional life. Of course, these type of lawsuits are not taken on a contingency basis and therefor, unless you are willing to pay good money to institute a lawsuit you should try a peaceful approach.

Good Luck,

Nima Taradji

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Answered on 11/10/03, 10:21 pm

Mary McDonagh McDonagh-Faherty Law Offices

Re: i was called a racist

It is not slander. She told you and did not broadcast it in front of any third parties. You told your administrator. If you can prove she broadcast same in front of others, then you MAY have a case. However, it is your choice to spend the money to pursue such a claim with a possibility of very little damages at the end.

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Answered on 11/11/03, 9:43 am
Anthony DeWitt Bartimus, Frickleton Robertson & Gorny, PC

Re: i was called a racist

This presents a very difficult case for you. What you stated in your question was that this woman told you that "everyone believes you're a racist." This may reflect an opinion. An opinion, even on a hot-button issue like this, is not actionable.

If she told other people that you were a racist. If she stated that as a fact, that may be actionable, provided, of course, that it is false. I don't want to make you crazy here, but she may have some collection of statements from you, at various times, that someone else might interpret as being racist.

If I were defending this woman, I would claim first that it was an opinion, and second, even if it was stated as fact, that there is evidence of this racism, and that the jury need only look as far as this lawsuit to prove it.

Now, don't get me wrong. For heaven's sake, I am not calling you a racist. I am simply suggesting that in a case like this, where emotions run very high, there is a good chance that at some point you will do yourself more harm than good by litigating the issue.

One thing you might try is peer to peer mediation. Get another teacher you both can agree is fair, and sit down and talk this thing out. Let this woman tell you what she sees as your racist behavior, and you can explain what's in your heart. Perhaps you might solve (or at least remediate) the situation in this manner.

The law is a very poor place to practice behavior modification. We don't take slander or libel cases (even under the most egregious facts) because there are simply too many defenses, and you rarely, if ever, see a successful lawsuit.

I hope you find this helpful.

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Answered on 11/11/03, 10:12 am
David Hicks David M. Hicks & Associates

Re: i was called a racist

I will give you the basic requirements for proving defamation and you can determine whether you think you have a good case.

For defamation there must be:

1.) a statement;

2.) that is false;

3.) that refers to the plaintiff (you);

4.) is communicated to others; and

5.) injures reputation.

One problem I see is that the accusation of being a racist is an opinion and usually opinions are not actionable. But due to the seriousness of the charge and the politcal climate we live in, this type of charge may still be actionable because of the public and social context of the statement.

There also may be school administrative avenues to tackle this problem.

I hope this helps.


David Hicks

David M. Hicks & Associates

6201 W. Main St., Suite 110

Maryville, IL 62062


Disclaimer: This e-mail should be construed as legal information and not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship has been formed or accepted.

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Answered on 11/11/03, 10:17 am

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