Jury says Indiana school district not liable for article in student newspaper

Jurors on Oct. 5 found against a former Whiteland Community HighSchool student who sued the school district after she claimed the school’snewspaper defamed her, violated her privacy and caused her emotionaldistress.

The newspaper’s adviser intended to edit out the comments but did not savethe changes, according to the Associated Press. Still, the jurors in JohnsonSuperior Court found that the district was not legally responsible for Inman’semotional distress.

Read the full story at:http://www.splc.org/newsflash.asp?id=1625&year=

SPLC View: This decision looks to be an important one. For years,there have been several court rulings finding that public college officials werenot responsible for unlawful material published by student media as long asschool officials played no significant editorial role. For no other reason thanhigh school student media are rarely taken to court — and the liability issuehas simply not been addressed — we’ve been unable to say with certainty thatthe same rule would apply to high school student media, though there is nological reason to treat the two differently if the programs are run similarly.Unfortunately, as of press time, we had not yet obtained a copy of the writtencourt ruling so we’ve not been able to read the fine print to determine theprecise basis on which this case was decided. Still, any ruling finding schoolofficials not responsible forstudent media should have a positiveeffect.

Case: Peek v. Whiteland Comm. School Dist., No. 41D01-0406-CT-00081(Johnson Super. Ct. Oct. 5, 2007).