Franklin Township Schools will pay former newspaper adviser Chad Tuley about $74,000 and cover his attorney’s fees per an out-of-court settlement signed last month.
Tuley was removed as adviser of Pilot Flashes and suspended for a week with pay in November 2004 after the student newspaper printed an article about a student arrested on murder charges.
He was eventually reassigned to a middle school, which he claimed was punishment for allowing publication of the article in question.
After asking to be reinstated as adviser and being denied, he filed suit against the school district claming his and his students’ First Amendment rights had been violated.
The terms of the confidential settlement were acquired by the Student Press Law Center following an Indiana Open Records Law request filed with the school district superintendent’s office.
Tuley will continue to be paid his regular salary through May 30, when his resignation takes effect, and will receive an additional $40,000 lump sum payment after that, according to the settlement. The settlement also stipulates the school district will pay Tuley’s legal fees of $23,125.
Tuley, who is on sabbatical leave, agreed never to work for the school district again.
Tuley said he was thankful for his former students’ support and that he wants to advise again.
This kind of case makes people realize how important the First Amendment is, Tuley said, adding that the case was about the First Amendment, not money.
SPLC View: It is good to see the school held accountable for its actions and Mr. Tuley compensated for the hardship he faced simply for doing the job for which he was hired. This case benefited from a very supportive student staff that helped plead their adviser’s case publicly and refused to let the school’s actions be quietly swept aside.
A list of practical suggestions and strategies for advisers caught up in a censorship battle is available at: http://www.splc.org/mediaadvisertips.asp
An aside: School officials and lawyers involved in this case initially refused to provide information to the SPLC about the terms of the settlement agreement. However, they agreed to provide the terms of the agreement after our reporters submitted a formal request under the Indiana open records law. This is something any reporter can do in a matter involving disclosure of public records by using our automated FOI letter generator at: http://www.splc.org/foiletter