Mother of Highland Park Middle School Student Sues Writer's Folks Over "Defamatory" Novel

HPMS.jpg
A curious tale involving Highland Park Middle School, two UT Southwestern docs, a 362-page novel and a whole bunch of underage kids allegedly depicted as doing things they shouldn't oughta just hit Courthouse News. Read it for yourself. Long story short: The mother of an unnamed HPMS student (identified only as "E.T.," a 14-year-old) is suing the parents of 14-year-old "N.C." for the boy's digital tome Nobody's Perfect, which, says the suit filed in Dallas County District Court earlier this week, "uses the real names (in many cases the full names) of Highland Park Middle School students, teachers and parents," including E.T., who says the suit, is placed "in unfathomable, graphic scenes ranging from immoral and demeaning to shocking and illegal."

The complaint then goes on to detail exactly that those scenes contain -- not exactly kid-friendly stuff, much more Larry Clark. It also alleges school officials knew about the book, got their hands on it and determined it "contained obscene content which was damaging to some of the students and disruptive to the school environment," leading to the suspension of the author, who has since returned to school. Calls are out to the attorney who filed the suit, as well as the author's parents, Lisa Halvorson and Stephen Cannon; and HPISD's director of communications, Helen Williams. The suit, incidentally, claims they were all shades of negligent for having failed, among other things, "to monitor the movies, television programs, books, and other influential material that was viewed and read by N.C."

Update at 2:39 p.m.: HPISD's Williams just sent a brief statement from the district. It reads, in full: "The campus principal and assistant principal were told about the book and given a copy. They investigated the incident and took appropriate action. We cannot go into detail about disciplinary actions because we are prohibited by law from discussing such matters. We consider the lawsuit to be a private matter between the litigants."
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176 comments
Janik
Janik

I support her lawsuit.

Bljk1957
Bljk1957

Why do people take things personal. I understand if you want to teach the child a lesson, but to sue him is out of the question. He took his time and wrote the book even if he used real names it's not yours. Leave him and his parents along. Do you know what your children are always doing? I don't think so.

Cas
Cas

how can it be so appalling if.... it is based on reality......... before filing suits, parents need to take responsibility for their little heathens actions and not try and blame everyone else for their own oversights. more parents need a reality check-- yes, your kids really are doing drugs and having sex at 14. yes, your children are drinking alcohol after school (and at lunch, and in the bathrooms between class) and probably know more about sex than you do.

Lzmdrazner
Lzmdrazner

When kids are bullied, they may develop severe anxiety, become depressed, and try to or successfully commit suicide. There have been some very high profile cases when this has happened, and criminal charges were brought against the perpetrators. I could see how she might react to the book as if she were being bullied--the bully-author spreading nasty things about her (even if "only" in a book), the story making her feel bad about herself, other kids talking about her behind her back, etc. She easily could have permanent damage from this. Imagine the awful feeling of having to be in class (or having to work) with someone who likes to imagine you being raped. Whether or not the case has merit, I think the girl's parents needed to do something big to get the attention of the boy's parents. I would say it worked.

a little "fiction"
a little "fiction"

Thought I'd share a passage from my forthcoming fictional novel:

The honeymoon was over for Lisa once she sobered up and realized Stephen's "indulgences" weren't of the adventurous-but-normal marriage type.  None of her Highland Park friends, most of whom were exceptionally kinky, had ever spoken about being violently and forcibly sodomized by their husband.  And certainly no one had ever mentioned (or complained) that their husband's sexual role playing always involved middle school boys, a role well suited for Lisa with her slim hips and small, slightly hairy breasts.  But all of this had gone unnoticed behind the haze of the booze and self-prescribed pills - a curtain behind which she could no longer hide as she faced life-saving reconstructive colon surgery to repair the years of abuse inflicted on it by her husband.  She laughed to herself, "How ironic that a man so woefully under-endowed could have caused such damage!"

LesliO
LesliO

I can't help but wonder if this child had written a work of "fiction" that included going on a murderous rampage, killing dozens of students and teachers and blowing up HPMS perhaps folks might not dismiss it as one spoiled kid taunting some other spoiled kids.

Johngrisham
Johngrisham

I think the suing mother feels the need to protect her daughter -I get it.  But I live in the neighborhood and have kids in the same school and didn't think twice about NC's book being real in any way. I know who ET is - wouldn't think she was any more promiscuous or prone to partying than any other girl in that class. But now I think "me doth protest too much" and knowing the parties involved, feel more suspicious of mother's motives.  I suggest the mother should call Ebby Halliday and find a new neighborhood.  Take that settlement money you're going to get and move to Lovejoy. And I think NC's parents need to get him into therapy and a creative writing class.

Wbr_Texas
Wbr_Texas

I think that the kid brought it upon himself but the mom didn't have to take it that far

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

For some reason, I just don't see kids like this in DISD (in DISD, it's the adults who are the problem).

The one bully I encountered was a teacher's child who didn't even live in DISD; the mother and child drove in from their McMansion in a distant, distant suburb.  The child certainly was not poor.I find a child envisioning rape and writing about it deeply, deeply disturbing.  I have never encountered any DISD child who did anything remotely like this.  Chronic behavior problems?  Yes.  Thugs who sell drugs?  Yes.  But something creepy like this?  Only from the McMansion kid.

C Mo
C Mo

I just read the filing on another website. There was a mom who knew what he was doing and didn't tell the victim's mom what she had discovered? That means there was one adult by her own account that could have stopped this and she didn't. She only warned the child author he could be sued? It sounds like that third party parent needs to be examined.

Johngrisham
Johngrisham

hey  . . where did the legal document go?  Clicked on the link and it's no longer there. More censorship?

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

This happens a lot with the very wealthy in Dallas.  Their kids bad behavior becomes public, and instead of disciplining the kids, they lash out at the folks who told them about it.

Melinda97
Melinda97

I really don't understand the problem here. Kudos to this kid for stretching his brain and writing a novel, something the majority of adults couldn't manage. He did what a lot of newbie authors do, he built on what he knows. Which in the 8th grade isn't a whole lot. I have a heck of a time naming characters, so I do use bits of names from people I know or names I hear that I like. You can't copyright a name. Just because there happen to be real people with those names doesn't mean he can't use them. We'd have no fiction at all if that were the case. It's clearly a fiction work. They need to get over it and go worry about something real, like drugs in the school. Leave the kid who is using his brain alone. Just wonder if this incident will push him to write more (I hope so) or if he'll decide to become a lawyer instead to stop this from happening to other would-be authors. Down with censorship, in all its forms!

CommonSenseTX
CommonSenseTX

Hey, we are talking about a kid who was 13-14 when he wrote this 362-page book, which to me is pretty impressive. He has written a fictive story taking place in 11th grade (he and the girl is in 8th grade in real life), and very unfortunately used his friends/schoolmates/teachers names. Can it maybe be explained by his young age that he made this mistake!? When it comes to the content of the book it sounds as if it is a rather correct description of what can happen to young people, even in the fancier part of the world (i.e. HP/UP).

Chi
Chi

Have you ever been to Highland Park? I'm a kid here and no, none of us have sex at 14 (except for the occasional slut who didn't grow up here) and no, none of us do drugs or drink. I'm not saying that's true for all of us, but the kids here are not like normal kids. Most of us find even the idea of that appaling cause we're such preps. We live in the bubble and it's shocking to most of us that there are kids out there who do drink and have sex and do drugs at our age.

quellepotat
quellepotat

So the parents ARE dysfunctional, self absorbed academic screw-ups.  I want to see chapter 2 which involves Stephen's "role playing" at the formerly prestigious medical school. LOL.

Guest
Guest

Yes. If the story were different, people would have overreacted in a completely different way.

Back when I was in high school, I wrote some pretty dark stuff (I didn't put real people in my stories back then, though), and even today people pay me actual cash money to write stuff that sometimes involves a degree of violence that I would not be comfortable facing in real life.

As it turns out, I didn't need psychological counseling when I was in high school. I needed an agent.

The only wrong I see in this kid's actions is that he made real people feel bad by using their real names on fictional characters who do/have done to them some bad things. Had he written the same book with more clearly- fictional characters, we wouldn't be talking about this at all (we likely wouldn't even know about it).

hugo black
hugo black

Better words than bullets.  I think JohnGrisham nailed it: therapy and creative writing instruction.

Janik
Janik

@Johngrisham She is entitled to live wherever she wants, and does not have to move out of the neighborhood.

beg
beg

You aren't the only one in the neighborhood wondering about the mother's motives...i don't really know the author's parents but i know the plaintiff's mother and there are things going on behind the scenes of this story that definitely make me question her motives.  I feel bad for et, but have a hard time mustering any sympathy for mp.

ObserverFan
ObserverFan

I asked an HPMS mom about this and apparently there is much more about the book than is listed in the court documents and it will hurt many people in the community. Maybe with one mom working to protect her daughter a lot of other people get protected too.

gladnotsad
gladnotsad

So, the  young girl and the girl's mom appear to be in an untenable position, no matter what. Why should the victimized family leave ? You are assuming that NCs parents are not dysfunctional and that this can be "solved" with a little therapy. How cute..  NCs parents are physicians enjoying prestigous positions - of public trust- at a county and federally funded hospital which supposedly cares for the helpless indigent and underpriviledged in our society (we all know how that's going these days). I think that the parents should do the community a favor, resign and take their seriously troubled kid with them. Far far away.

hugo black
hugo black

As a teacher you would prefer thugs (whom by definition are violent) selling drugs (many of which are dangerous, especially at younger ages) to a "creepy" kid who wrote a sexually explicit novel?  Yes, he may be creepy but at 14 years of age and with minimal computer literacy, he and his companions have been exposed to every variety of hard core pornography in existence.   Pretty sure this fits the bill for a lot of DISD kids, who instead of writing 300 page porn tomes are just spreading rumors about the promiscuity, sexual preferences, etc.of the local kids. This doesn't make either of them model children, but ET certainly does not seem to deserve all of this.

One question I would ask i why are not the DISD kids writing more?

pbluett
pbluett

Agreed. also the post which opined that that Nascent Cujo's (NCs) parents who oversaw the "activity" during divorced parent weekends in separate homes and gave Cujo the computer probably have some  hostility "issues" at play with the school or each other , They may have even "ghostwritten" the filth.Cyberbullying does not impress except possibly if the little t*rd wants to use it as a resume enhancer to follow his in his  "doctor"parents footsteps at the county tax payer funded slaughterhouse which is , in the opinion of many, UTSW.

beg
beg

So you're actually contending that what this kid wrote is true?  Is that your bend on things?

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

The problem is that these parents HATE having to be involved in their kids lives.They were OK with the behavior when it was behind closed doors - and even paid for it.But now that it's public, they feel like THEY are the victims.

Daisy C
Daisy C

Any proof that he actually wrote this himself? I'd like to know whether either of his parents contributed. Helicopter parents are well known for writing their kids' term papers, college essays, etc., so it's not a stretch.

hugo black
hugo black

I sense a lot of bitter resentment. Why do you assume NC's parents are dysfunctional?  What's wrong with therapy?  What's wrong with ascending to prestigious positions?  What does it matter they are physicians with hospital privileges at Parkland?  What do their jobs have anything to do with any of this.  I am surprised at the number of readers who clamor for witch hunting on the basis of an initial complaint before any pertinent facts are considered or verified. 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

A child--any child from anywhere--who writes about a rape in graphic detail is not like any-- ANY--of the thousand or so kids of the same age group I have taught.

Rape isn't porn and it isn't sex, although you seem unable to distinguish the difference between the three.

Rapists, like people who torture animals and set fires, love the violence and the control.

They are deviant.

A middle-schooler who writes such things?Wow.

CommonSenseTX
CommonSenseTX

I don't know, but it states in the court papers that the kid has published a couple of other books, so it seems to me that this is a kid with a writing itch. And it's not anything he would get credit for in school, it's a book written on his spare time, so why would his parents write it. And why on earth would they ever want to place themselves in a situation like this by writing a fictive story using their kids friends names?? Doesn't seem very plausible, does it. My money is on the kid writing this on his own, and probably didn't mean any harm using borrowed names on his fictive figures. I think he learned a lesson.

hugo black
hugo black

Thank you for this one, though I would wager there are some illegitimate 14 year old kids out there with Catholic priest fathers.

gladnotsad
gladnotsad

...we are hopeful that Catholic priests won't have to worry about "their" 14 year old child. Anyway we're outta here.  This column is way over commented upon. thanks for the LOL moments. 

hugo black
hugo black

I can handle your answer just fine, it's just that I find it mean spirited and contrary to the norms of our society.  Lawyers are held to a high standard of ethics with respect to their clients, dealings with other attys, and to the courts in which they appear.  They are not held to a higher standard with respect to their child's school.  I am unfamiliar with the clergy but I would doubt a priest would be asked to resign for his 14 year old child's actions.  Same with doctors.  In effect you want to punish the parents for the crimes of the child; but in this case there is no crime, just a civil court accusation a 14 year old defamed a classmate.  And why stop with the clergy, lawyers and doctors?  Elected officials?  CEOs? Teachers? Military officers?  Sorry to say but this is not how things are done in the USA.

And for how long does this parental responsibility last, and when does it begin?  How badly must the child behave before the parents must change their names and move to a self-imposed exile?  When are the parents' forgiven.

If you are being sarcastic--fine, then we are on the same page.  If you are serious then you are completely clueless as to the issues and procedures involved in this controversy.

gladnotsad
gladnotsad

"Justice" Black,you obviously shouldn't ask a question if you can't handle the answer.LOL

pbluett
pbluett

One of the parents is, ironically, a "Director of  Medical Education" and presumably oversees training of inexperienced young people at Parkland, a public funded facility with years of ongoing  (hidden from public view) issues related to poor patient care, fraudulent billing practices, etc although the facility has attempted falsely  to maintain a public "facde" of superiority.  I think that it can be assumed that the parenting is lax if NC , a juvenille under parental oversight, fancies himself an "author" writes 400 pages of deliberately salacious hurtful defamatory material targeted at a defenseless female classmate and teacher, brags about it, publishes it, and shows off to classmates and at least one other adult parent. In other words : it was public knowledge ,NCs "brilliant" parents were..."the LAST to know?" (yeah- sure)  Certain professions i.e. the clergy, law and medicine are subject to increased ethical and professional oversight by their own hierarcy, and in some cases state and federal agencies in order to protect the public from harm/abuse. Institutions may also exercise additonal codes of conduct or have even higher expectations   Both parents trained at instiutions with which I am familiar and which under similar situations would have asked them to resign as the  public predatory conduct of the juvenille family member( under their direct control)  would reflect poorly on the institution. In other words: Scandals involving Medical professionals are not usually tolerated at this  institutional level. By extension the middle school was forced to intervene (because of poor parental oversight) and offer some relief to the victims by disciplining -expelling the kid,or distancing him from understandable reactive outrage at his antisocial behavior--(the family environment being the "incubator" thereof.)

hugo black
hugo black

I guess there isn't much left of government and civics at DISD.

hugo black
hugo black

AdarcWhen I was fact checking the Voltaire quote at a quotation site, I always thought the quote to be as you indicated.  The site indicated that he didn't say this it all, rather one of his biographers used the phrase to summarize her belief of Voltaire's opinion on the subject.  The site noted, however, that the quote I repeated was used in on of Voltaire's letters.

Today, reading the Voltaire and Evelyn Beatrice Hall entries in Wiki I find that in fact the second version does not appear in the letter to which it is attributed.  If I were not previously influenced by the Voltaire misattribution I would have guessed it sprang from John Adams or Clarence Darrow,  So now the late Ms. Hall has earned a place in my heart.

I didn't fact check your quote because I like it, it sounds like Voltaire, I am sure I will appropriate it, and quoting Voltaire seems to give words a higher level of respect--whether deserved or not--than even Ms. Hall, who was quite a star in her own right.

The two quotes are not contrary. The price of literary freedom is a lot of bad books, from holocaust deniers, romance novels, and self published 5 edition sets of porn by 14 year olds. Imagine Voltaire's frustration with the internet.

adarc
adarc

Voltaire also said; "The multitude of books is making us ignorant."  Meaning not everything written should be published.

And by the way, the quote you were thinking of is actually: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”

pbluett
pbluett

Re:" Two sides to every story"  Sadly, those of us who treat such people have seen NCs "story " everyday..... see: "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout.  The " Cliffs Notes version "of the above is that the people around NC and his ilk don"t do too well.(Your only recourse is to recognize the prototype.)

hugo black
hugo black

I lived through Viet Nam and the Pentagon Papers, went to law school and have become an ardent supporter of our Constitutional freedoms.  You do not seem to understand: if you prevent this 14 year old from writing and publishing this vile and disgusting book, then all forms and content of expression are at risk.  Freedom of speech isn't a concept to protect ideas we all agree with, it is there to protect what we find anathema.  There is no difference between NC and Joyce, other than Joyce was likely the much better writer.

Voltaire supposedly said: "I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.."  To me, that goes for both NC and you.

I can't believe a teacher of our middleschool  children is advocating the suppression of a book and and equating the thinking of a crime to the commission of the crime.  I find this far more frightening than a 14 year old's extreme behavior,  You should know better.

Also, there are two sides to every story.  We haven't heard NC's yet.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

One wonders what in your past compels you to defend a 14 yr old thinking about, mentally scripting, and then writing a graphic rape scene.

gladnotsad
gladnotsad

No, he is worse, since he comes from a backround of priviledge and has proceeded to act in an anti-social deviant manner.  Incidentallly-See Mainframe--is he  ...   familiar? I can just see mom and dad UTSW arrogant "Docs" pushing around the underlings at the Med School. A lawsuit is too good for these creeps.

hugo black
hugo black

When it comes to kids thinking bad things, or writing bad things, or doing bad things--such as thugs selling drugs, the first two are nowhere close to being as bad as the latter, and our criminal laws recognize these differences.  A middle schooler who is violent and sells drugs--triple wow.

There is no age requirement for being allowed to write about rape in graphic detail.  Rape is awful but it is depicted--often graphically so--in countless books, movies, TV shows, and yes, porn movies, too, si it is no surprise to me a 14 year old has incorporated depicted rape in a book.  The only controversy here is that the author/student used the names of actual classmates as the names of his 11th grade fictional characters and so ET's Mom brought a defamation suit.

Does DISD include civics or government in its curriculum, and if so does it include the purpose of the First Amendment?  Freedom of speech is meaningless if controversial topics are cast outside of its protection.  You have to accept a lot of dirty, ugly and stupid forms of expression in order to protect art and politics outside the norms of mainstream society.

And maybe you don't know your kids as well as you think you do.  I find it hard to believe none of those thousands of kids ever had a felonious thought.  Maybe a few wrote their thoughts down.  I suspect you don't know about it because the DISD authors never published their thoughts and sparked a lawsuit.

Adamgordon
Adamgordon

I know the kid personally, and he isn't a rapist.

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