Martinsburg College sues woman for defamation over Facebook posts

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 29, 2019

KANSAS CITY — Martinsburg College is suing a woman it claims defamed the school on Facebook.

Ten unknown and unnamed individuals were also named as defendants in the suit.

Career Skills Institute of West Virginia, which is doing business as Martinsburg College, claims Cheryl Murray, under the alias of Sheryl Shine, has been posting statements on Facebook that were done to harm the college, according to a complaint filed Jan. 23 in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.

On Jan. 11, Murray posted that the college was a complete scam and that it had its national accreditation in jeopardy.

"This statement is false," the complaint states. "Plaintiff is a bona fide provider of educational services and its national accreditation has not been challenged in any manner."

Murray also stated in a Facebook post that no employer would accept certifications or degrees from Martinsburg College, which the school claims is misleading and untrue.

"Plaintiff does not prepare students for occupations that will require a specific credential, therefore it is impossible for an employer not to [accept] our certificates of completion," the complaint states. "There is no evidence that any employer has refused to hire a graduate simply because they graduated from Plaintiff."

Murray stated that “because of it being a national accreditation NO decent college will accept their credits for you to continue your education elsewhere," according to the suit.

The college claims this statement is false, as at least 52 colleges and universities have accepted credits earned by the plaintiff’s students, including Rutgers, University of Texas and a number of others.

Murray stated that Martinsburg College advertised an articulation program with several universities, which was also a false statement, because the college does not openly advertise its articulation agreements and instead, lists them on its website as per the requirements of its agreements, according to the suit.

The college claims Murray further stated that her post was accurate and that there was only 0.5 percent real success stories regarding the school, as the rest were representatives who were forced to leave positive reviews to keep their jobs.

"This statement is false," the complaint states. "As noted herein, Defendant’s initial post was false. Further, Plaintiff has not forced its reps to leave positive reviews, and none of the reviews presented on Plaintiff’s website were provided by any past or current employee of Plaintiff."

Murray lastly urged students of Martinsburg College to file complaints against the school so that MyCAA would no longer fund them and to report them to the Better Business Bureau.

"Upon information and belief, Defendant Murray’s statement was intended to cause harm to Plaintiff by encouraging Plaintiff’s students and prospective students to cease doing business with Plaintiff and engage in abusive process by filing meritless complaints against Plaintiff," the complaint states. "Upon information and belief, Defendant Murray is actively seeking out Plaintiff’s current and prospective students on an individual basis in order to disseminate the false statements and convince the current and prospective students to cease doing business with Plaintiff."

Murray's actions have caused the college harm, as at least one employee has resigned, citing the Facebook postings and numerous current and former students have filed complaints against the school using the wording from Murray's Facebook posts.

The school claims the complaints are causing financial harm.

The school is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. It's represented by William H. Meyer, Thomas J. Fritzlen Jr. of Martin Leigh PC; and Matthew A. Barlow and Roger J. Conkie of Workman | Nydegger.

U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas Case number: 2:19-cv-02036

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Martinsburg College U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas

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