Privacy, Libel and Free Speech


by Joe Meyer

Print this page and bring it to class.  

IN YOUR GROUP:   (maximum of six people) Read the case, discuss it and see if your group can arrive at a consensus on the following questions. We will compare groups to see if there is a consensus in the class.

  Somewhere in Indiana, in the early nineties:

Six students (age 17 & 18) distributed condoms to fellow students before school and after school on the sidewalk in front of their high school.   They also displayed placards identifying AIDS as a disease that condoms could help prevent.   The school prohibited them from doing it, and the students sued on the basis of freedom of speech.

The local newspaper published a story about the students, including a picture.   In the caption and the story all six students were identified as being gay.

One student is gay and sued the paper for invasion of privacy.   The other five students are not gay and sued the paper for libel.  

Essentially, you are the jury.  You DO NOT need to reach a unanimous decision.  Just try to reach a consensus .

1)       Do the students have the right to distribute condoms has they claim in their law suit?

2)       Was the gay student's privacy invaded by the newspaper?   If so, what is the appropriate remedy (how much money)?

3)       Were the other five students libeled by the newspaper?   If so, what is the appropriate remedy (how much money)? all rights reserved by Joseph N. Meyer