A 2023 Sussex Central High School graduate, whose bare breast was inadvertently exposed in a school surveillance video, has filed a lawsuit against two principals accusing them of creating a meme from the incident and sharing it with staff.
Eighteen-year-old Aniya Harmon’s breast became visible during a verbal altercation when a faculty member accidentally pulled her jacket and bra strap, Delaware Online reported.
The incident, which occurred on May 17, has since led to a legal battle that has shaken the school community.
The two principals have been identified as Bradley Layfield and Matthew Jones.
“I was infuriated,” said Latosha White, Harmon’s mother. “I was angry, and I’ve been angry ever since,” The New York Times reported.
The lawsuit, filed in Delaware Superior Court, alleges that Layfield and Jones used the surveillance footage to create a meme.
In this meme, they superimposed Janet Jackson’s face on Harmon’s in a reference to the singer’s 2004 Super Bowl halftime show incident.
The lawsuit claims that Layfield shared the unedited video with faculty members, raising concerns about the violation of privacy.
Harmon and her mother are demanding criminal charges against the principals.
“I’m still disappointed,” Harmon said. “And I’m still in shock about everything.”
The legal action comes after Harmon and her mother learned that the meme was being circulated within the school by staff members, according to Delaware Online.
White expressed her dismay, saying, “It’s been hell, to be quite honest with you.”
Both Layfield and Jones were placed on administrative leave on May 22, shortly after the incident came to light.
Aniya Harmon alleged in a Delaware lawsuit that administrators made a meme of her when her breast was exposed at Sussex Central High School. The lawsuit says administrators invaded her privacy after Janet Jackson’s face was superimposed on top of Harmon’s. https://t.co/KXxv2JhCwo
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 15, 2023
Delaware State Police have been investigating the case since then, although no charges have been filed yet.
Layfield, in a statement released by his attorney Thomas Neuberger last month, acknowledged sharing the video with staff members but did not mention the meme.
Neuberger reiterated Layfield’s position that he did not create or distribute the meme and called the lawsuit “a misplaced claim” against his client, according to Delaware Online.
Layfield’s attorney defended his actions, stating that he had shown the footage in person to state troopers, assistant principals, and some teachers, in line with school policy.
However, the state police and Sussex County prosecutor’s office have not yet commented on the matter, according to the Times.
Harmon’s family is also pursuing legal action against Sussex Central High School and the Indian River School District, naming them as defendants in the lawsuit, according to Delaware Online.
Neither the school nor the district has responded to the allegations as of yet.
The incident has had a profound impact on Harmon, who is now a college freshman, the Times reported.
She described how it affected her emotionally and socially, saying, “I hope it brings awareness to other schools — make the school a better place, safer for students.”
Delaware Online also reported that critics of the school’s response to the incident, including NAACP Delaware State Conference of Branches president Richard Smith, have called for a comprehensive investigation into how black students are treated and have demanded charges against the principals.
Smith emphasized that Layfield and Jones should never work in another school again, saying: “We are basically calling for the Attorney General to look deeper into it and come up with the right charges to charge these two.”
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