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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Student Parody News from Around the Nation

Fort Wayne is not unique in dealing with high school student parodies. Current news from other school districts in Indiana and Pennsylvania show why.

Indiana Parley has already provided you the news about Kouts High School in northwest Indiana.

However, there is another case in Indiana where there school corporation is DEFENDING a high school parody about a student in the a high school paper. The Clark-Pleasant School Corporation in Whiteland, Indiana, has filed an appeal with the Indiana Court of Appeals after it lost a trial court ruling on its motion to dismiss a suit by a student who claimed she was defamed by a parody in the school paper. From the Student Press Law Center story:
Heide Peek, a 2002 graduate of Whiteland Community High School in Whiteland, Ind., sued the Clark-Pleasant Community School Corporation in 2003, claiming an article in the senior edition of the student newspaper contained defamatory comments about her. She also claimed that the statements invaded her privacy and caused her serious emotional distress. A motion to dismiss filed by the school district was rejected in October 2005.

The district filed the appeal Jan. 5 with the Indiana Court of Appeals, said Rosemary Borek, an attorney for the district.

Smoke Signals, the school's monthly student newspaper, gave Peek the "worst reputation" award in its May 2002 issue. The paper also said her favorite song was "Underneath Your Clothes," and in the "ambition" category, made a reference to her being raped by a monkey, according to the Oct. 11 trial court decision.

Peek was particularly sensitive to the comments because she was allegedly raped in April 2002, according to the decision.

In addition to the school district, the lawsuit also named the superintendent, the high school principal, vice principals and the student newspaper adviser as defendants. No student journalists were named in the suit.

In his ruling, Judge Kevin M. Barton refused the school district's request to throw out Peek's libel claims finding that a jury could conclude that the statements published in
Smoke Signals "imputed sexual misconduct" to Peek. However, the judge also acknowledged that a jury might find the statements were simply "nonsensical" and therefore not libelous.
And near Pittsburgh, a student has sued his school corporation for overly harsh punishment following an online parody about his high school principal. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story:
Three days after he posted the profile, Justin tried to remove it, Mr. Walczak said, but it had already been pulled from the site.

Then, on Dec. 21, Justin and his mother, Cheryl Layshock, were called in to meet with the school superintendant, district solicitor and the co-principal of the high school, Chris Gill, to discuss what they called "a potentially serious matter."

After that meeting, Justin both went to Mr. Trosch and sent him a letter of apology. He thought, Mr. Walczak said, that his apology had been accepted and the matter was finished. But on Jan. 3, Justin and his father, Donald Layshock, were called to the Hermitage police department and told that Mr. Trosch had asked that harassment charges be filed against Justin.

The officer said he would not file charges unless directed by his superiors. None have been filed.


At [a January 6th disciplinary] hearing, the school gave Justin a 10-day, out-of-school suspension and ordered him to finish high school in the Alternative Education Program. He has been told he cannot go to any of his regular classes.

The administration also banned Justin from participating in any school events, including the French tutoring he did for middle school students and attending his own graduation in the spring.

On Jan. 11, Justin's parents went to Mr. Gill and asked if Justin could serve a different punishment, such as community service or extra tutoring, but their request was denied.


Earlier this week, Justin was admonished by school officials for trying to speak with his trigonometry teacher, his lawyer said.

Besides the current punishment against Justin, the lawsuit also contends that this could have long-term effects on him.

He applied to Penn State University for college next fall, and he received a letter on Wednesday, telling him that a "registration hold," was placed on his application due to a "dismissal/suspension from Hickory High School."

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