Former students, Everett School District settle lawsuit

EVERETT — Former Everett High School student editors and the Everett School District have reached an out-of-court settlement in a First-Amendment case over the publication of the Kodak, the student newspaper.

The district’s board approved the settlement Wednesday night, and lawyers for both sides have signed an agreement in which both sides are claiming victory.

Mitch Cogdill, Everett lawyer who represented the two editors, said the young journalists got what they wanted — the right of the school administration to review material for publication but “it is not subject to (administration) approval.”

The two student editors, Claire Lueneburg and Sara Eccleston, have moved on with their lives and are now attending college. Lueneburg said she’s satisfied.

“I feel like this pretty much gets us exactly what we wanted,” Lueneburg said. “I think we have achieved everything and this is a victory for us.”

Michael Patteson, the school district’s Seattle attorney, disagrees.

“They absolutely lost,” Patterson said. “This is total vindication for the Everett School District.”

The case was settled days before a scheduled trial in U.S. District court in Seattle after the young women filed a lawsuit objecting to school administrators reviewing material prior to publication and making changes.

They alleged their First Amendment rights were being violated in a lawsuit they filed December 2005.

In July, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez turned down a school district bid to have the case dismissed without a trial. Martinez sided with the district on one key point, but said there were factual issues unresolved, including whether the Kodak was a public forum subject to the First Amendment.

In the agreement, the former student editors agreed to a change the paper’s masthhead saying that student editors have a right to make editorial decisions “subject to Everett School District” policies.

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