Washington high school editors reach settlement in suit over paper's masthead

Both sides claimed victory in a settlement announcedAug. 30 that ended a nearly two-year-old lawsuit over whether Everett HighSchool’s principal could demand to review issues of the student newspaper beforethey went to press.

Claire Lueneburg and Sara Eccleston, former co-editorsin chief of the Kodak, brought suit in December 2005 after the school’snew principal prevented the paper from printing a revised masthead, which statedin part that the paper was “not subject to prior review by administrators,faculty or community members.”

The settlement follows a preliminary ruling issued inJuly by U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez that denied theschool’s request to dismiss the case. In that decision, Martinez wrotethat the students could not sue the principal for threatening prior review(reading only). However, prior restraint, which is a related but more extremerestriction that involves forbidding the publication of student media, isillegal in Washington, the judge wrote.

Read the full story at:http://www.splc.org/newsflash_archives.asp?id=1596&year=2007

SPLCView: As for the settlement in this case, there is not much news to report. Theparties largely finished where they started, with the masthead language thestudents wanted still gone but the school district policy limitingadministrative prior restraint still intact.

The main positive thing to come out of this courtbattle, however, was the district court judge’s July ruling that (1) thenewspaper at issue in this case, even though curricular, might still beconsidered a “forum for public expression” and (2) the WashingtonState Constitution might provide more free speech protection for students thanthe federal First Amendment. Both of these rulings are ones that are likely tobenefit future students, both in and out of Washington.

Case: Lueneburg v. Everett School Dist. No. 2,2007 Westlaw 2069859, (W.D.Wash. July 13, 2007).