Student sues school district for $2 million over Facebook bikini photo

A former Georgia high school student has filed a lawsuit claiming that a school administrator impermissibly showed an image of her in a bikini to hundreds of local parents and students, reports Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB-TV.

Chelsea Chaney, who is now a freshman at the University of Georgia, said the photo was taken on a family vacation when she was 17 years old. It shows her in a two-piece bikini next to a cardboard cutout of legendary rapper Snoop Dogg.

Chaney posted the photo on her Facebook page, believing that only people she had accepted as Facebook friends (and, of course, their friends) would be able to see it.

The director of technology at Starr’s Mill High School then decided to show the image during a well-attended district-wide seminar focused on the long-term dangers of social media.

In the seminar, which allegedly occurred when Chaney was a student at the school and a minor, the caption of Chaney’s bikini-clad photo was allegedly: “Once it’s there, it’s there to stay.”

“I was embarrassed. I was horrified,” Chaney told a WSB-TV reporter. “It never crossed my mind that it would ever — that this would ever happen to me.”

The school official allegedly failed to obtain — or, apparently, even try to obtain — Chaney’s or her parents’ permission.

The unnamed school official did later apologize, in writing, explaining that the image had been “randomly chosen.”

Chaney did not accept the apology. She also remains skeptical of the motive.

“I just don’t think it was random,” she said. “It wasn’t my main picture. You had to go looking through it.”

Pete Wellborn, an attorney now representing Chaney and her family, told the ABC affiliate that he has filed a lawsuit on her behalf for $2 million, alleging that the school district violated federal law, state law and Chaney’s constitutional rights.

Wellborn maintains that a person does not cede rights to others by posting images on Internet sites such as Facebook.

“Their idea that putting something on Facebook gives them a license to steal it and carte blanche to do with it what they did is wrong ethically, it’s wrong morally and it’s absolutely wrong legally,” the attorney argued.

“I just don’t want this to happen to another student,” Chaney added, according to the station.

The school district denied legal liability but otherwise declined to comment on the litigation.

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