Military School Loses Bid to Bury Alarming Video

     (CN) – A Kansas military school cannot shield a cellphone video that allegedly shows an adult instructor forcing a distraught student to stand on two broken legs, a federal magistrate judge ruled.
     The video has come to light in a lawsuit that claims systematic abuse of students at the St. John’s Military School, in Salina, Kan.
     Several families claim that their children were physically abused while under the school’s supervision, and that school officials knew about or caused the abuse.
     Claiming that someone is providing the press with photographs and videos of St. John’s students, the school asked the court to issue a protective order.
     But U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale ruled Thursday that the school cannot support alleged concerns for the privacy of the depicted minors because the Associated Press already distributed a story containing the video.
     “This request does not involve the limitation of discovery provided from the defendants to the plaintiffs, and does not even claim that the dissemination is occurring from the plaintiffs,” Gale wrote. “In any event, these alleged events are beyond the scope of the present case and not the proper subject of an order by this court. Any unlawful use of images of minors may subject parties or persons unknown to liability, but there are no grounds alleged by defendants sufficient to support an order from this court in this case.”
     The families suing St. John’s claim that the school or its agents have confiscated students’ cellphones and deleted “hundreds” of pictures and videos, including some that allegedly depict student abuse.
     Though the school generally denied this claim, it noted a “long standing policy regarding cell phones and cell phone usage.”
     This answer did not impress Gale, who also ruled Thursday that St. John’s must stop the alleged activities.
     “The seriousness of the allegations in this motion, and the qualified denial by the defense, raise the court’s concern sufficiently to justify the imposition of an order,” Gale wrote. “(The breach of the duty to preserve evidence would not, for example, be excused by a ‘policy’ allowing or requiring destruction.) The harm to the plaintiffs of the loss of the described evidence would be substantial, and this order will not impose substantial burdens on the defendants.” (Parentheses in original.)

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