Bikini-Clad Student Sues Georgia High School for Circulating Image

PHOTO: A Georgia woman is suing her former school district for using a facebook photo of her wearing a red bikini she posted online to warn students against the public nature of social media.
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A Georgia woman is suing her former high school district for using a photo of her wearing a bikini that she uploaded on Facebook to caution students about social media.

Chelsea Chaney, now a University of Georgia student in Athens, was a high school senior at Starr's Mill High School in Fayetteville, Ga., when a photo of her wearing the red bikini and posing next to a cardboard cutout of rapper Snoop Lion appeared on a school-wide presentation about sharing too much online.

The slideshow, titled "Internet Safety," was created by Curtis R. Cearley, director of technology for Fayette County Public Schools, according to Chaney's lawsuit.

She is suing the school district for $2 million, citing invasion of privacy, libel and defamation, among other things.

Chaney referred questions to her lawyer.

"The photo was used without Chelsea's permission and it was chosen because she is a very attractive girl who was in a bikini, something that can be easily twisted and used as an example of how one humiliates themselves on the Internet," said Pete Wellborn, Chaney's attorney.

A copy of the slideshow was appended to the lawsuit.

The photo of Chaney appears on a slide with the heading "Once It's There, It's There To Stay." Chaney's full name is beneath the photo.

The photo had allegedly been shown to hundreds of students and parents in Chaney's former school district Oct. 25, 2011, when she was 17, according to Chaney's lawsuit.

"I was embarrassed. I was horrified," Chaney, now 19, told ABC News Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV. "It never crossed my mind that this would ever, ever happen to me."

On Oct. 27, 2011, Cearley, the technology director, sent an apology letter to Chaney's mother and father, which Wellborn shared with ABC News.

In his letter, Cearley addressed his motivations for using Chaney's photo.

"In order to stress the public and permanent nature of the media, and in an attempt to make the presentation as relevant as possible, it included a photo of a Fayette County student, your daughter."

Cearley also apologized to Chaney.

"Ms. Chaney," Cearley wrote, "from the students I found with open profiles I simply selected a photo at random. The embarrassment I may have caused you at school is an unintended consequence of my hasty actions. For that, I offer my apology directly to you."

An attorney for the school district told ABC News he finds it perplexing that someone is suing for millions over a picture she herself posted on the Internet.

Chaney says she uploaded it so only "friends and friends-of-friends" could see it.

District officials said they cannot comment on any ongoing litigation, according to WSB-TV. The district told WSB-TV it does not believe they have broken any laws and have filed a motion to dismiss the case.

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