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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student

Courts say high school paper not liable for student’s trauma

Newspaper joked about girl in story about her rape

FRANKLIN, Ind. – Jurors found a central Indiana school district was not responsible for the emotional distress a student newspaper article caused a student who recently had reported she was raped.\nHeide Inman, formerly Heide Peek, sought $800,000 in damages as a result of the 2002 article, which described her as having the worst reputation among Whiteland Community High School’s senior class and made a joking reference to rape and bestiality.\nA six-person Johnson Superior Court jury deliberated for about seven hours Friday before finding Clark-Pleasant Community School district officials were not responsible for the statements and awarding no money to Inman.\nInman’s attorney, Kevin Betz, said she was considering an appeal.\nThe lawsuit stemmed from statements in the 2002 senior edition of Smoke Signals, a student publication. Attorney James Stephenson, representing the district, said the faculty adviser removed the offensive remarks during editing, but the changes were not saved.\nBetz said the family had asked the principal and school officials to help shield the girl after the reported rape, and that the statements in print made it appear as if she had lied about the rape.\n“That’s what she gets from her school,” Betz said. “We know what those words meant to everyone in that high school setting and what it did to her emotional state.”\nThe publication was subject to review and oversight by school officials, the lawsuit alleged. Betz said officials were reckless for allowing the statements to be published.\nStephenson, however, argued that the adviser at the south suburban Indianapolis school made a mistake when she didn’t find the statements in a final edit, but that was not enough to prove recklessness.\n“Even though Heide Peek was wronged, we’re not here to award damages to wronged plaintiffs unless they prove their claims,” he said.\nStephenson also questioned whether the publication really added to the distress already caused by the rape, and whether it had done lasting damage to her reputation.\n“She could move into Whiteland now, and I doubt anyone would have a recall of this publication or know who she is,” he said.\nBetz said Inman has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since the rape, but Stephenson said she had not sought counseling. Stephenson said if jurors held the school responsible they should award up to $50,000 to be used for five years of counseling

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