The leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome.

National Down Syndrome Society
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National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) Statement on a New Tennessee Defamation Lawsuit Involving a Young Woman with Down Syndrome

January 30, 2016 - The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) is speaking out on another unfortunate case involving online and internet discrimination against a young woman with Down syndrome, Skylar Mitchell, from Springfield, Tennessee, that was repurposed in many different forms using derogatory and offensive language. Valentin Chmerkovskiy, a cast member of Dancing with the Stars, shared an offensive image of Skylar, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter earlier this month, which went viral to more than a quarter of a million followers, comparing her weight to child abuse.

Today, the Mitchell family filed a lawsuit against Valentin Chmerkovskiy, Mr. Michael Smail and CBS in response to the demeaning internet and insulting images of their daughter. The family is seeking damages for severe mental anguish and emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, fear and other non-economic damages.

NDSS maintains a zero tolerance policy against stereotyping, defamation and discrimination against people with Down syndrome. “All people with Down syndrome are valued members of society and deserve to be treated with the upmost dignity and respect,” said NDSS President Sara Hart Weir. “Our organization has been involved with another unfortunate discriminatory case, coincidentally also in Tennessee with the Holland family, and will be working with members of the Tennessee General Assembly to ensure this and all types of discrimination against individuals with Down syndrome (and other disabilities) are eliminated.”

“The right to free expression is not a license to inflict injury and humiliation on an innocent and defenseless child or adult with Down syndrome,” said Nashville attorney Larry Crain, who represents the Mitchell family. “This has had a life-changing impact on this young lady and her family, and it is time something is done to hold those accountable who use the image and likeness of others to promote their own cause or celebrity.”

This is the second time in recent months that NDSS has been at the forefront of handling social media matters as it related to people with Down syndrome. In November 2015, a jury awarded Adam Holland and his family damages for a picture of Holland that turned into an internet meme defaming Holland. 

ABOUT NDSS 

The National Down Syndrome Society is a nonprofit organization with more than 350 affiliates nationwide representing over 400,000 Americans who have Down syndrome.  The mission of NDSS is to be the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.  NDSS envisions a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations, and become valued members of welcoming communities. For more information visit www.ndss.org. 

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