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Defamation claim against Fayette schools dismissed

A judge dismissed Wednesday a former principal's defamation claim against the Fayette County Board of Education for producing a report accusing her of wrongdoing.

Circuit Judge James Ishmael ruled that the board did not publish the report, which accuses former Booker T. Washington Academy Principal Peggy Petrilli of improperly holding students back a grade.

Petrilli denies the allegations and is suing the board for defamation over the report.

Ishmael said the report only became public after the Herald-Leader filed an open records request demanding a copy of it.

Under the law, publication is an essential element of defamation.

Petrilli claims the report was a "hit job" intended to discredit her and any litigation she might file against the board. Petrilli is also suing the board for alleged racial discrimination.

Her attorney, Dale Golden, argued a school board attorney, Brenda Allen, wrote the report for the sole purpose of defaming Petrilli. The board knew the media would obtain the report and publicize it, Golden said.

School board attorney John McNeill said the board is required to comply with open records requests. He said the document was intended for internal purposes only and was not meant to be published.

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