A Houston law firm’s client is trying to hold Snapchat’s owner responsible for the seduction of a minor by a high school teacher, according to a lawsuit in federal court.
Derek Merman of the law firm Heard Merman is representing the boy in federal court.
Snap Inc., the company controlling the social media app Snapchat, has been cited in recent years by parent groups as a magnet for predators because the app is popular with children, and photos and videos posted can disappear in 24 hours or less.
Snap Inc. is a Delaware company based in Santa Monica, California. He did not respond to the court filing.
The plaintiff, identified by the alias John Doe, is a minor living in Conroe, who attended Oak Ridge High School in the Conroe Independent School District. The school district is also a named plaintiff, as is the teacher, Bonnie Guess-Mazock.
The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Doe through a following friend Jane Roe vs. Snap. It was filed Feb. 24 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas-Houston Division. He alleges that Snapchat fails to monitor its social media platform for child sexual predators, which allowed the teacher to groom the boy for what police reports say was inappropriate sex.
Mazock used Snapchat to arrange private off-campus meetings with the minor, according to the complaint, adding that the school district does not have a policy regarding social media communications between students and teachers.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office arrested Mazock in January for indecency with a child. She has posted $100,000 bond and is awaiting trial.
The complaint describes the minor as a vulnerable boy whose father abandoned him and whose mother was murdered. The school was the miner’s “safe haven”, a place where he trusted the teachers and staff, he says.
In the fall semester of 2021, when Doe was in his second year, Mazock used his authority to keep Doe in the classroom after class ended and, in a closed meeting, asked for his name. Snapchat user. She then began seducing Doe by sending seductive photos of herself attached to solicitous messages, according to the complaint.
“Snapchat’s disappearing messages feature provided the perfect cover and opportunity for Defendant Mazock to prey on her students,” the complaint alleges, alleging she frequently used the app with Doe. The lawsuit further alleges that the teacher made advances to other students in an effort to groom them for a sexual encounter.
The teacher and student met frequently during the fall and winter months for sexual encounters at various locations, according to the complaint. On Jan. 12, 2022, Doe suffered a non-fatal overdose of a prescription drug, Percocet, provided to him by Mazock, according to the lawsuit.
He further states that the relationship was an open secret on campus frequently discussed by students, but the principal did not investigate the rumors or intervene.
The case was discovered because the overdose incident led Doe’s guardian to investigate the incident, the complaint states.
The school district is being sued for failing to properly screen and train employees. The plaintiff named in the lawsuit is a guardian relative using the name Jane Roe and includes John Doe through her.
The lawsuit, while acknowledging that Snapchat monitors user activity, alleges that the company’s primary goal is not to stop child predators, but to sell more ads to advertisers.
“Despite having the means to stop this horrific conduct, Snapchat is not interested in helping the victims who fall prey to these child molesters,” the complaint alleges.
In 2018, the majority of American teens were Snapchat users, according to the Pew Research Center.
The causes of action against Snapchat are based on accusations of negligent business; the company’s platform allows users to change their date of birth up to five times, an implicit license to lie about age, she says.
The lawsuit further alleges that the disappearing image feature, without requiring proof of adult consent, is negligent design. Finally, he alleges gross negligence for having made a conscious decision to use the information obtained solely for his own financial gain.
The damages sought from the three defendants amount to $1 million for economic and non-economic losses, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.