Strong Schools official sued over alleged Facebook libel involving conservative activist

Strong Schools official sued over alleged Facebook libel involving conservative activist

A top official with the left-wing Strong Schools movement took to Facebook to call a Sumner County conservative activist a cruel man who enjoys harming children, a lawsuit says.

Things on social media got so bad the activist, Kurt Riley of Hendersonville, resigned from his church, says the lawsuit, filed against Sybil Bass Reagan, outreach coordinator for Strong Schools Sumner County.

As reported, the Strong Schools movement has ties to the National Education Association.

Sumner and Williamson are the only two Tennessee counties with a Strong Schools group.

Kurt Riley (photo courtesy of Facebook)

Kurt Riley (photo courtesy of Facebook)

People in both counties told Tennessee Watchdog the group is a front for teachers’ unions to tarnish and humiliate local conservatives.

Reagan referred all calls to her attorney, Travis Parham of Nashville, who did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

Riley is a former political candidate for alderman supporting the Tea Party. He said one of Reagan’s Facebook posts led another person to imply a need to kill Riley.

According to the lawsuit, even former State. Rep. Debra Maggart, who did not immediately return requests for comment, joined the bash-fest.

Riley said Reagan’s accusations are untrue.

“She said I harassed her daughter, who is around 13 or 14, but I’ve never met or communicated with her daughter, either directly or indirectly. She says she took legal action against me to get me to stop harassing her daughter, but she’s never provided proof that she did that.”

Riley said his son is the age of Reagan’s daughter.

The two teenagers’ lockers were beside one another, and an incident between the students happened about 1 1/2 years ago. Riley would not elaborate.

Sybil Bass Reagan's Facebook profile photo (photo courtesy of Facebook)

Sybil Bass Reagan’s Facebook profile photo (photo courtesy of Facebook)

“My son said he wanted his locker moved away from the girl. Eventually I got the locker moved away from her. I made a comment in an email about what happened at school with my son and her daughter. It was just one or two sentences. That was it,” Riley said, adding that he emailed just two people.

Riley said one of the email recipients forwarded his message to others, and the email eventually made its way to Reagan, he said.

Reagan, according to the lawsuit, began a campaign to slander Riley’s name, saying he was cruel and nasty to children, that he harasses children and that Reagan and her family are scared of him.

Riley said one teenager vandalized his house — and Reagan used that to say on Facebook the culprit was probably someone he bullied.

Maggart said on Facebook that Riley is “ugly to kids,” according to the lawsuit.

Another poster to Facebook referenced the movie “Strangers on A Train” on Reagan’s page while discussing how best to handle Riley.

“This refers to an Alfred Hitchcock movie about a psychotic socialite confronting a pro tennis star with a theory on how two complete strangers can get away with murder — a theory that he plans to implement,” according to the lawsuit.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN: At one point, according to the lawsuit, someone on Facebook referenced the old Alfred Hitchcock movie when deliberating what to do about Kurt Riley. (Photo courtesy of Flickr.com and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN: At one point, according to the lawsuit, someone on Facebook referenced the old Alfred Hitchcock movie when deliberating what to do about Kurt Riley. (Photo courtesy of Flickr.com and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

Riley’s lawsuit says Reagan “conspired to communicate complaints and/or threats to Long Hollow Baptist Church” where Riley was a member and taught Sunday school.

“They contacted the church and wanted me removed because of the comment I made about the situation my son told me about at school,” Riley told Tennessee Watchdog.

“I explained everything to the church. The church said they were getting so many emails and phone calls that they were worried they’d need to do something. I said if you’re worried about it I’ll step down. They said that’s a good idea until this thing blows over. I decided to leave the church. I didn’t feel comfortable there anymore.”

Long Hollow Baptist Church spokesman Eric Murrell had no comment.

As reported, Strong Schools members are said to demonize, intimidate and silence anyone who disagrees with their left-of-center politics, which includes a strong stance against school vouchers.

In Williamson County, a variety of people said they were too scared to speak on record against the group, fearing retaliation.

Sumner County journalist Neil Siders, who spoke against Strong Schools, said one member of the group created a website to say malicious things about him and his sex life.

Riley is suing Reagan for libel, slander, defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He says he doesn’t expect any movement on the case this year.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org 

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