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Jury finds for Puyallup School District in civil suit over oral sex story in student newspaper

Post by Stacey Mulick / The News Tribune on April 21, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
April 21, 2010 5:06 pm

UPDATE: A Pierce County jury this afternoon exonerated the Puyallup School District of any wrongdoing in connection with a high school newspaper that quoted four students by name in a package of stories about oral sex.

On a 10-2 vote, the jury decided the JagWire newspaper of Emerald Ridge High School was within its rights to publish the students’ names and sexual backgrounds. Because it was a civil case, only 10 votes were required to decide the case.

The 10 jurors felt the four students – who claimed their privacy was invaded – should have known when they talked to a JagWire reporter that their names and comments would be included in the newspaper.

“They believed in freedom of expression,” said attorney Michael Patterson, who represented the school district. “It was total vindication for the school district.”

Plaintiff’s attorney John Connelly said his clients were saddened by the verdict. They’d each sought between $500,000 and $1.5 million in damages.

“They’re sad, but they’re glad they brought the case,” Connelly said.

PREVIOUS POST: A Pierce County jury has found for the Puyallup School District in a civil lawsuit filed by four former students.

The students had sued the Puyallup School District after the student newspaper at Emerald Ridge High School published a series of stories on oral sex in February 2008. The students had been quoted in the package and contended they never gave permission for their names and sexual histories to be printed. They claimed they suffered damages as a result in the forms of ridicule, harassment and invasion of privacy.

During the civil suit, the school district contended the students did consent to their names and comments being printed and changed their stories only when their parents got upset with the articles.

The trial began in late March. The former students had notified the district that they intended to seek between $16 million and $32 million in damages.

Courts reporter Adam Lynn is at the courthouse and will report more in tomorrow’s News Tribune.

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