Peregian Springs State School teacher’s aid Deanna Charles (left) and principal Gwendolyn Sands.
Peregian Springs State School teacher’s aid Deanna Charles (left) and principal Gwendolyn Sands.

Dad sues as vicious rumour shatters school

A WARNING not to let kids go on play-dates to a family's house has triggered a bitter legal battle which is dividing a small Queensland school community, a court has heard.

Deanna Charles, a Peregian Springs State School teacher's aide, allegedly warned others that her former friend and fellow parent, Mark Anthony Wilson, "could not be trusted around children" and "has been banned from an after school activity".

The claims have triggered a $600,000 defamation suit against the education department, the school principal and Ms Charles, in the District Court.

Mr Wilson claims in his defamation suit that he was forced to remove his daughter from the school due to the alleged slurs by Ms Charles and principal Gwendolyn Sands, which he says are entirely false.

Ms Charles, who was a teacher's aide for year one students, has also left the school, taking a leave of absence in term 3 of 2018 and she "ceased employment" on December 14, 2018, court documents state.

 

Teacher’s aid Deanna Charles. Picture: Supplied
Teacher’s aid Deanna Charles. Picture: Supplied

 

Mr Wilson alleges that Ms Charles - a former friend who came to his daughters' birthday party in 2017 - defamed him seven times in 2018 either in things she said to others or in written messages exchanged on Facebook Messenger. He also alleges she defamed him by showing school parents a "concerns notice" he sent to her in September. He is suing her for $300,000.

Mr Wilson also alleges principal, Ms Sands, defamed him in June or July 2018 by telling nine teachers or senior school staff: "Deanna Charles has been saying to people that Mark Wilson is a paedophile".

Ms Charles denies the claims, and instead points the finger at her former friend, and school parent Kelly Kelly Molloy, who she claims told her during a "play-date" for their kids, that Mr Wilson was "grooming" a child.

Ms Charles claims she can't be held liable for the Messenger messages, because they were private and were leaked to Mr Wilson by Ms Molloy, who she is claiming against.

Ms Molloy says she only handed over the messages to Mr Wilson's wife Liselle because the education department had asked to see them, and because she felt obliged to because Ms Charles had a "duty of care" to the students.

Ms Charles, Ms Sands and the department have all denied the claims, arguing Mr Wilson has spread the ugly rumours himself by repeating claims that he had been labelled a paedophile to several school parents and staff.

 

Peregian Springs State School parent Kelly Molloy, who has been accused of sharing Facebook Messenger messages sent to her by Deanna Charles.
Peregian Springs State School parent Kelly Molloy, who has been accused of sharing Facebook Messenger messages sent to her by Deanna Charles.

 

Ms Charles alleges in her defence that Mr Wilson made "inappropriate comments" saying her young daughter has "large buttocks" during a barbecue at Mr Wilson's home in 2017, and that she overheard Mr Wilson tell her six-year old daughter in 2018 that if his daughter was "a good girl she will get to have a naked shower with me later".

Mr Wilson alleges Ms Charles told her husband, Michael Charles, Ms Molloy and Ms Molloy's husband Jean-Jacques Fouard, that "Mark Wilson is a paedophile" and that he had "made inappropriate remarks towards my daughter" during a "poker night" at her home on June 9, 2018.

"I am warning other parents not to allow their children near him," Ms Charles is alleged to have said.

She is also alleged to have told at least 10 parents at PSSS "Mark has been banned from an after school activity", "Mark Wilson is a paedophile" and "I am concerned that … any child that may come into contact with Mark Wilson would be in danger".

She is also alleged to have defamed him four more times in messages sent to her friend Kelly Molloy on Facebook Messenger.

Ms Charles denies all claims she has defamed Mr Wilson, and is pleading a defence of justification, contextual truth and has filed a cross-claim against Mr Wilson alleging he defamed her to her employer and to the Coolum Beach police station when he complained Ms Charles was stalking him and asked police to have Ms Charles charged with criminal defamation.

Ms Charles alleges that police found "there was no evidence to indicate an offence had been committed".

Ms Charles claimed Mr Wilson falsely accused her being a child abuser, and of having affairs and threatened to expose it - while shopping at Noosa Junction, in Coles supermarket in Peregian Springs.

"Deanna confided to Liselle, Kelly and Michelle about her affairs and it will all come out in the case," Mr Wilson is alleged to have said at Coles.

Mr Wilson's lawyers have asked the court to throw out Ms Charles' cross claim at a hearing next week.

The education department denies Mr Wilson is entitled to damages from the department, and denies it is vicariously liable for Ms Charles' conduct because it did not know, or authorise her comments.

It argues that if Ms Charles did make such comments as claimed, they were done in her capacity as parent and not as a teacher.

The case returns to the District Court in Brisbane on Wednesday.