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The Associated Press

FILE – In this Feb. 1, 2016, file photo, novelist Nicholas Sparks attends a special screening in Los Angeles. The trial is getting underway, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in a lawsuit that accuses Sparks of defaming the former headmaster of a private Christian school he founded in North Carolina. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Author Nicholas Sparks says keeping the private Christian school he founded in his North Carolina hometown headed in the right direction was tough during a 2013 spell before cutting ties with the new headmaster he deemed unfit for the job.

The author of “Message in a Bottle” and “The Notebook” is expected back in a federal courtroom Thursday.

Sparks told jurors school headmaster Saul Hillel Benjamin lied about his previous work experience, disappeared without explanation during school hours, berated employees and accused parents and others of being bigots or racists.

Benjamin alleges in his lawsuit against Sparks, his foundation and Epiphany School of Global Studies in New Bern that the writer defamed him by telling parents, a job recruiter and others that the Benjamin suffered from mental health problems.

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