TACOMA (CN) – Four high school students say Puyallup School District invaded their privacy by printing their names in a high school newspaper after promising them anonymity for providing “candid answers” to a survey about their sex lives. According to the federal complaint, the students were asked if they “had ever engaged in sex or oral sex, and if so, under what circumstances.”
The students say the Emerald Ridge High School newspaper, the JagWire, identified them by name and printed their responses.
One plaintiff was quoted as saying, “I was 15. I was horny. It wasn’t really a relationship at that point. I’d known the guy for a week.”
This girl says, “The quotation was immediately followed by the female student plaintiff’s full name and a bracketed statement announcing to the student body that she had ‘participated in oral sex.'”
The other plaintiffs say their “interviews” were followed by similar statements and identifications.
The students say they were “humiliated” when the article came out. They say their classmates proceeded to call them “sluts” and “whores.”
One student says she was on a field trip when she learned via text message that her name and sexual history had been printed. She says she was “terrified” to return to campus.
Another student says a classmate approached her at her job and asked “how the biggest whore at Emerald Ridge” was doing.
One plaintiff is a boy.
“After being interviewed, but prior to publication,” the complaint states, “one of the students specifically asked whether her name would be included in any manner in the article. She contacted a member of the JagWire staff to confirm that this would not be the case, and she received assurances that her name would not be used.”
Digital recordings of the survey show that the plaintiffs never gave permission to be quoted, but the reporters destroyed the recordings “after it became clear that a controversy existed,” the students say. They add that the school allowed the article to be entered in a statewide contest with the identities of the students included.
The students demand damages for invasion of privacy, and also allege negligent hiring of “an under-qualified journalism instructor,” identified in the complaint as Kevin Smyth.
“Kevin Smyth, the journalism instructor at Emerald Ridge, was responsible for oversight of the JagWire publication. The journalism class is part of the curriculum at Emerald Ridge,” the complaint adds. It does not name Smyth as an individual defendant. But it states, “Prior to publication, Mr. Smyth reviewed the February 2008 edition of JagWire, including the article on oral sex and the statements identifying specific students and disclosing the details of their private sexual histories to the student body, as described above.
“Before publication, Mr. Smyth was aware that these four specific students would be identified and that their sexual histories were about to be announced to the entire student body. He was additionally aware that there was nothing indicating that these four students had agreed to be quoted or to have their sexual histories announced to the student body.”
The students demand punitive damages for sexual harassment, privacy invasion, negligence and outrage. They are represented by John Connelly Jr.