A civil lawsuit against the principal of L.C. Bird High School and several Chesterfield County Public Schools officials over a misidentified player on a 2012 championship football team poster has been dismissed.
In a May 1 letter to the parties, Richmond General District Court Judge L.B. Cann III said that plaintiff David Shurland missed the filing deadline for his claim of emotional distress in which he asked for $25,000 in damages. In addition, Cann said that Shurland’s defamation claim did not pass legal muster.
Shurland filed the suit Feb. 26 against principal Laura Hebert and school officials Joseph Tylus, James Lane and James Holland in Chesterfield General District Court. Due to a conflict cited by the court’s judges, the case was assigned to Cann.
Shurland said the misidentification of his son Jayson Shurland’s photo in the poster caused him emotional distress and mental and physical anguish because it took the school 4 1/2 years to correct it.
He also said that a comment Hebert made in an email was defamatory. In the July 13, 2017 email, Hebert said, “It’s what he does” in a reply to a question from school district communications director Timothy Bullis about why Shurland was at the front desk complaining about the football team.
Cann interpreted Hebert’s statement as an assertion that Shurland is a complainer. As such it was her opinion and thus subjective, Cann said. Further, he said that the state Supreme Court has ruled that other more offensive terms, including “director of butt licking,” that was applied to an assistant vice president at Virginia Tech in that college’s newspaper, did not rise to defamation.
Cann also ruled that Shurland missed a two-year filing deadline. Cann said the clock began ticking on Dec. 31, 2015, 18 months after the school agreed to fix the poster. As such, the deadline to file a lawsuit was Dec. 31, 2017.
After Cann’s ruling, Shurland noted that Tylus, the school district’s director of constituent services, emailed him Oct. 4, 2017 and said that the corrected version of the poster was placed in the L.C. Bird High School counseling office Sept. 13, 2017.