Family files suit over Mt. Lebanon High School 'Top 25' list

Teen sued for defamation

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The alleged author of the "Top 25 in 2006" list that has stirred controversy at Mt. Lebanon High School was sued for defamation yesterday by the father of one of the girls on the list.

The plaintiff in the suit is listed as "John Doe," the parent of "Jane Doe," a minor child. The suit was filed by attorney Richard W. Kelly Jr., and it identifies the author of the list as Doug Stein.

The complaint said that both Mr. Stein and "Jane Doe" were students at Mt. Lebanon High School during the 2005-2006 school year. Mr. Kelly declined to say what evidence he had to prove that Mr. Stein, 18, was the author of the list.

Mr. Stein could not be reached for comment. His attorney, William Difenderfer, said Mr. Stein did not want to comment.

Mr. Difenderfer's only response to the lawsuit was: "It's a shame for everyone."

Doug Stein is the son of Richard and Gina Stein, who is the secretary to Mt. Lebanon High School Principal Zeb Jansante.

Mr. Kelly said he was keeping the identity of his client confidential to avoid further public embarrassment and humiliation for the girl. He said Mr. Stein and his attorney will know the identity of the plaintiff because the Top 25 list description of the plaintiff's daughter is included in the complaint.

The "Top 25" list, which surfaced in late April, was a vulgar ranking of the "Top 25" girls at the high school. It used a scoring system that placed the girls in a numerical listing from 1 to 25 and it gave each girl letter grades for her face, breasts and buttocks.

The list also included a narrative about each girl, with sexually explicit descriptions of some of them.

The narratives included references to drug use, oral sex, sexually transmitted diseases and weight.

"Jane Doe," however, was not one of the top 25 girls. She was the 26th entry -- given zero points and the grade "Z."

The narrative that accompanies her entry includes demeaning descriptions of her. While the other girls on the list were identified by their first and last names, "Jane Doe" is identified only by her first and middle names.

Mr. Kelly said neither he nor his clients would comment beyond what was included in the complaint, which alleges that Mr. Stein first published the list to a group of Mt. Lebanon High School students in late February or early March.

The complaint said Mr. Stein also circulated the list to "numerous individuals at colleges in Ohio and Pennsylvania." Then it was sent via e-mail to people at other college campuses around the country and to students at Mt. Lebanon High School.

According to the suit, starting in early April, "Jane Doe" started to get comments from people who had seen the list, then she missed numerous days of school "as a result of the harassment and embarrassment caused" by the list.

It says she was "extremely embarrassed by the publication and has suffered and will continue to suffer harm to her reputation and emotional distress as the result of the publication" of the list.

The suit contends that Mr. Stein created the list "either negligently or maliciously and with the intent to harm (Jane Doe) and her reputation and standing in the school community and community in general."

The suit asks for a jury trial and a judgment against Mr. Stein in excess of $25,000, and it also asks for punitive damages in excess of $25,000.

Mt. Lebanon school officials investigated the publication and distribution of the "Top 25" list and in early May suspended one student and prohibited him from participating in some school activities. District spokeswoman Cissy Bowman said yesterday that confidentiality regulations prevented her from confirming whether that student was Mr. Stein.


Mary Niederberger can be reached at mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1866.


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