Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 68th Judicial District Court Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. DC-17-16679
Justices Myers, Osborne, and Nowell
A. NOWELL, JUSTICE
an interlocutory appeal from an order denying a motion to
dismiss pursuant to the Texas Citizens Participation Act
("TCPA"). John Doe, individually and as next friend
of John Doe, Jr., a minor, and Jane Doe, individually and as
next friend of John Doe, Jr., a minor, sued Laura Caracio for
defamation after she contacted Good Shepherd Episcopal School
("Good Shepherd" or "GSES") and allegedly
accused John Doe, Jr. of criminal and sexual misconduct.
Caracio filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to the TCPA; the
trial court denied the motion. We reverse the trial
court's order. We remand this cause to the trial court
for entry of a judgment of dismissal as to the Does'
claim against Caracio and for a determination of reasonable
attorney's fees, sanctions, and expenses.
2017, the Does sought admission to Good Shepherd for Doe, Jr.
who would be in sixth grade during the 2017-2018 school year.
The application materials included Doe, Jr.'s educational
records from two schools he previously attended, St. Thomas
Aquinas Catholic School and St. John's Episcopal School.
On June 21, 2017, Good Shepherd sent a written offer to the
Does for Doe, Jr. to attend Good Shepherd for the 2017-2018
school year. The Does accepted the enrollment offer.
Statements to Good Shepherd about Doe, Jr.
10, 2017, a Good Shepherd parent, Heather Holmes,
emailed the GSES's Head of School, Julie McLeod. The
email states in part:
I just got a disturbing email stating that a new student is
coming to our sixth grade and his name is [redacted]. He has
been expelled from St. John in fourth grade and then expelled
in fifth grade from St. Thomas Aquinas. . . . Please explain
to me why this child has been admitted to our school. I'm
already hesitant to have [redacted] return and now you are
accepting children that have a clear resume of bad behavior
and expulsion from two other private schools in the area.
the summer of 2017, Laura Caracio, whose daughters attended
GSES, contacted the school. Caracio called David Dodd,
GSES's Head of Middle School, and told him she heard
about a new boy who would be attending Good Shepherd. She
told Dodd she heard that, at a prior school, the boy was
escorted off of the school premises after bringing a knife to
a school carnival and he looked up the skirt of a female
student or touched a female student inappropriately.
deposition, Caracio testified she was driving her daughter, a
rising sixth grade student at GSES, and other girls to soccer
practice. The girls were talking amongst themselves about a
boy who they previously attended school with; the boy, who
they did not identify by name, was going to attend Good
Shepherd. Caracio testified the girls said the boy "had
gotten into some trouble at school." Caracio stated:
"I don't recall their exact words. I recall an
incident of he had a knife at the school carnival and
something about sexual harassment and looking at girls'
skirts." Caracio did not discuss what she overheard with
the girls or their parents. She had not heard the girls talk
about this boy on previous occasions and did not hear them
discuss the boy again.
testified she called Dodd and "told Good Shepherd that I
overheard a conversation in my daughter's soccer carpool
about a boy who was coming to Good Shepherd who they had said
brought a knife to the school carnival and looked up some
girls' skirts with sexual harassment. I do not remember
the exact words. I remember the two incidents." She also
testified: "I told David Dodd of a conversation I
overheard that included the boy brought a knife to a school
carnival." Caracio did not recall stating the boy was
expelled from a previous school.
following exchanges occurred during Caracio's deposition:
Q. Do you consider reporting information about a boy who has
applied to Good Shepherd, where you volunteer for Admissions,
brought a knife to a school carnival and who has engaged in
sexual harassment, looked up girls' skirts-Do you think
that that's significant information?
[Attorney]: Object to form, but you can answer the question.
A. I think it is something that they need to know and do - -
do their due diligence on researching. . . . Well, if there
was a boy coming to our school, I think they needed to check
the situation out; correct. . . .
Q. Is it your testimony that what you told Good Shepherd
about this boy only came from one communication?
Q. What did David Dodd say in response?
A. I don't recall his exact words. He would look into it.
Q. Did he look in to it?
A. I never heard - - never communicated with him about it