KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. — Three students and their families have settled a civil rights lawsuit over the students' expulsions for making a movie in which evil teddy bears attack a teacher.
The settlement was approved by the school board on a 5-2 vote Tuesday.
The lawsuit resulted from a dispute over the 78-minute movie titled "The Teddy Bear Master" made by four students and distributed on a very limited basis on DVD. School officials saw the movie as a threat to Knightstown Intermediate School teacher Dan Clevenger and expelled the four.
Two of the students, Isaac Imel and Cody Overbay, sued the school district on grounds it had violated their First Amendment rights. A third student, Charlie Ours, later joined the lawsuit. The fourth student did not challenge the school's expulsion.
The boys, who are sophomores, completed the movie last summer. In it, the "teddy bear master" orders stuffed animals to kill a teacher who had embarrassed him, but students battle the toy beasts, according to documents filed in court.
Superintendent David McGuire said the school district's insurance company will cover the cost of the $69,000 settlement that will be split among the plaintiffs.
School Board President Mike Fruth cast one of the dissenting votes.
"I don't agree with our justice system," Fruth said.
The settlement terms also require the students' suspensions and expulsions be expunged from their records, that the students be allowed to make up missed work, and that Imel and Ours write a letter of apology to Clevenger and his wife.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in December had granted a preliminary injunction against the expulsions of Imel and Overbay, saying school officials had not proved the movie disrupted school. In her ruling, Barker described the movie as "humiliating" and "obscene."
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