[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
from Montgomery Circuit Court (CV-17-901624). Truman M.
Hobbs, Jr., Judge
J. Mendelsohn of Jemison & Mendelsohn, P.C., Montgomery, for
A. Bottcher and T. Dylan Reeves of McGlinchey Stafford,
Birmingham, for appellees Cameron Smith and R Street
Thompson, Jonathan R. Little, and Ivan B. Cooper of
Lightfoot, Franklin & White, L.L.C., Birmingham, for appellee
Advance Local Media LLC.
Bell, a member of the Alabama State Board of Education
("ASBE"), appeals from the Montgomery Circuit
Courts dismissal of her complaint asserting claims of
defamation, invasion of privacy, the tort of outrage,
negligence and wantonness, and conspiracy against Cameron
Smith, Advance Local Media, LLC ("ALM"), and the R
Street Institute ("R Street"). We affirm.
June 21, 2017, Bell attended a special-called meeting of the
ASBE concerning elementary- and secondary-education matters.
Among other matters, the ASBE decided during the meeting not
to renew the Alabama State Department of Educations contract
with ACT Spire Solutions, which provided ACT Spire
Assessments for the purpose of tracking academic progress of
Alabamas public-school students in kindergarten through 12th
grade. In the course of the discussion between ASBE members
about that contract, Bell made some comments regarding
special-education students and their effect on the aggregate
test scores of public-school students throughout the state.
August 24, 2017, AL.com published an article written by
Cameron Smith in which he addressed some of Bells comments
in the June 21, 2017, ASBE meeting. The headline of the
article stated: "Alabama School Board Member Considers
Institutionalization for Special Ed Students." Because
the article is central to Bells claims and to the
defendants motion to dismiss, we quote the article in its
"Alabama State Board of Education (SBOE) member Ella
Bell wants to know why we cant force special needs children
into an institution in an effort to help improve test scores
in Alabamas public schools.
"That might be a reasonable question ... from someone
who hasnt served on the SBOE for more than a decade and a
"Under federal law, students with disabilities should
have the opportunity to be educated in the same environment
as their peers to the greatest extent appropriate. Its a
practice commonly referred to as least restrictive
" Is it against the law for us to establish perhaps an
academy on special education or something on that order,
asked Bell, so that our scores that already are not that
good would not be further cut down by special-eds test
"When Bells colleagues mentioned LRE, she didnt seem
to understand. It doesnt matter about that. You can make
it the least restrictive environment, she said, Im
trying to see if you can move them out.
"When a SBOE member doesnt seem to have a real grasp
for such an important aspect of public education, we have a
problem. I looked up the Alabama State Department of
Educations comprehensive FAQ on the issue in about two
"If Bell had bothered to be even a little bit curious,
she would have discovered the answers including how
individualized education plans (IEP) for students approach
assessments. She clearly didnt bother to look for answers
before attending the meeting.
"State Superintendent Michael Sentance noted that
even students with challenges similar to theoretical
physicist Stephen Hawking would be considered special
needs. Bell responded, Im just saying those who have
special needs are truly not folks like [Hawking].
"She even said, Its almost not fair for LAMP (Loveless
Academic Magnet Program in Montgomery) and them not to have
special-ed folk to bring them down.
"Bell doesnt seem to have a clue about Alabamas public
education system for special needs students, but she is
pretty concerned that those ...