Multi-million-dollar defamation lawsuit filed against two SPS board members

Published 7:00 pm Thursday, April 11, 2024

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SUFFOLK, Virginia — A multi-million-dollar defamation lawsuit against two Suffolk Public School board members was filed in Suffolk Circuit Court on Thursday, April 11. The lawsuit filed by Deborah Wahlstrom alleges board members Tyron Riddick and Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck used “false and defamatory” statements about Wahlstrom, and those statements, the lawsuit contends, have damaged her reputation and good name. Wahlstrom is seeking $6 million in damages and a trial by jury.

The defamation suit against Riddick stems from a video posted to social media of Wahlstrom being escorted out of a July 22, 2021, school board meeting. Wahlstrom later sued Suffolk Public Schools for violating the Virginia Freedom of Information Act and won the case after the Supreme Court of Virginia denied an appeal from the school board.

The claims against Brooks-Buck stem from a narrative portion of her recommendation for discipline against board member Dr. DawnMarie Brittingham, which emerged after a May 18, 2023, town hall Brittingham hosted, where Wahlstrom spoke.

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According to court filings, Riddick posted the video to Facebook during the meeting. However, that video is no longer available. The video, which the lawsuit says was 4 minutes and 44 seconds long, shows Wahlstrom as she was approached by law enforcement officers, having a discussion with the officers, then exiting the room. The suit alleges Riddick made “outrageous comments” about Wahlstrom and her possibly being capable of committing a shooting.

The suit also points to a May 26, 2023, notice of proposed disciplinary action against Brittingham, where Brooks-Buck alleged Brittingham violated “certain norms and protocols of the Suffolk City School Board.”.

In the complaint, Brooks-Buck says during the May 18, 2023, town hall conducted by Brittingham, where Wahlstrom was allowed to speak, gave “questionable data about the reading scores of the children of Suffolk Public Schools.” The complaint by Brooks-Buck also outlines discrepancies in Wahlstrom’s online profile and biography.