SPLC launches First Amendment Fund

This summer, the Student Press Law Center will launch the First Amendment Fund to protect the rights of student journalists.

"Anyone who works with students recognizes that they frequently have to fight for their right to cover important issues," says Mary Arnold Hemlinger, youth journalism and diversity consultant for the Newspaper Association of American Foundation and chair of the SPLC's board of directors.

District pays $62,000 in damages after losing suit filed by student suspended for Web site

WASHINGTON -- School administrators received a lesson in First Amendment rights in February after a judge approved a settlement granting more than $60,000 to a student who was suspended for posting a Web site that poked fun at his assistant principal.

Karl Beidler was awarded $10,000 in damages and $52,000 in attorney's fees following negotiations between the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which represented Beidler, and the North Thurston County School District.

The settlement came after a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled in July that Beidler's First Amendment rights were violated when he was suspended.

"Today the First Amendment protects students' speech to the same extent as in 1979 or 1969, when the U.S.

Students secure return of newspaper

OHIO -- It all happened rather quickly. One day the student newspaper was distributed, the next day it was suspended, and six eventful days later, it was returned to the students.

While some might laud the return of the Walnut Hills High School student paper as a victory for the student press, staff members are not so ready to claim success.

Philip Ewing, co-editor of The Chatterbox, called it a "limited victory." Although the principal gave the newspaper back to the students, he also implemented a new set of rules that would give him "a way to censor us," Ewing said.

The struggle started in March when Walnut Hills principal Marvin O. Koenig suspended the student newspaper because of a column and a cartoon featured on the humor page in the March 15 issue that poked fun at the assistant principal.

The column, written by humor page editor Sean Krebs, criticized school administrators for holding Saturday school, a form of detention for skipping class that requires students to report to school on Saturdays.

Decision frees college press from censorship

KENTUCKY -- After seven years, the members of the Kentucky State University class of 1994 will finally receive their yearbooks.

KSU officials agreed to distribute the books in February as part of a settlement with two students who sued the university for violating their First Amendment rights by confiscating the 1994 edition of the Thorobred.

Under the terms of the settlement, Kentucky State will attempt to reach 90 percent of the students eligible to receive the yearbook, which was funded with student activity fees.

Parents file libel suit against school

CALIFORNIA -- A family filed a lawsuit against the Lompoc Unified School District for libel and invasion of privacy in March after a school newspaper published an article containing accusations of abuse and alcoholism within the family that they say are false.

Jerry and Barbara Reyes, parents of Cabrillo High School student Christina Reyes, sued the school district claiming that an article published in the student newspaper, Fore and Aft, contained untrue statements falsely attributed to Christina Reyes.

The March 2000 article, which discussed the effects of divorce on children, allegedly reported that 16-year-old Christina Reyes said her father was an alcoholic who physically abused her mother and sexually molested her sister.

Professor calls newspaper article defamatory

MASSACHUSETTS -- Teachers suing students, a situation once considered rare, is now becoming more common among high school and college students and faculty.

In one of the most recent cases, Salem State College professor Adeleke Atewologun sued student newspaper editor Ed Justen, newspaper adviser Ellen Golub and the school itself in December claiming he was libeled in an article in The Log that reported that he was arrested for domestic violence.

According to court records, Atewologun claims Justen defamed him in a December article about a sexual harassment charge in which Justen said Atewologun was arrested in 1993 on a domestic abuse charge.

Atewologun, who denies all allegations, is suing for $216,000 in damages, claiming that his reputation was ruined as a result of the article.

"It is simply not true," Atewologun said.