Paper sued for taking photo of girl





OHIO — An anonymous Akron family has filed a lawsuit on behalf of its elementary school-aged daughter over a photograph of the girl that appeared in the local paper.

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The $500,000 lawsuit names The Akron Beacon Journal, Akron Public Schools and various individuals at the school and paper as defendants. The suit alleges defamation and invasion of privacy, centering on a photograph of the girl — referred to in legal documents only as Jane Doe — which appeared on the front page of the paper Dec. 13, 2000.

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The suit claims the photograph was taken without the permission of the student or her parents, and that the accompanying caption was intended to "characterize Jane Doe as a poor student and/or problem child who misbehaves."

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The girl was depicted in a room where students are sent as part of an in-school suspension program. The caption read "[Jane Doe], 8, does her schoolwork in the Intervention Student Services room — known as '103' — at Portage Path Elementary. She was sent to the room for misbehaving during class." The photo was part of a four-day award-winning series on academic problems.

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The paper claims that its reporter and photographer "were told that parental consent had been obtained," according to court documents.

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"We think [the suit] is without merit," Beacon Journal attorney Karen Lefton said. "We think it was an excellent series and an excellent story that was absolutely true. We're obviously disappointed at the lawsuit, but we're confident that when all is said and done, we'll be found to have done really good journalism."

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The case is on hold while the sides wait for the appointment of a new judge. The initial judge, Jane Bond, recused herself because of her involvement in another matter with the Beacon Journal.


reports, Spring 2002