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Cases Settled on Sexting, Shock Therapy

There were two interesting settlements this week in lawsuits I have reported on in the blog.

'Sexting': A Pennsylvania school district "has settled a lawsuit alleging that a principal illegally searched a student's cell phone, found nude pictures she had taken of herself, and turned it over to prosecutors," the Associated Press reports.

The case involved the Tunkhannock Area School District, which was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania on behalf of a 17-year-old student whose phone was searched by a school principal. The student intended the photos to be viewed by her boyfriend.

Under the settlement, the school district denied any liability or wrongdoing but agreed to pay the student and her lawyers $33,000 to resolve the dispute, the ACLU chapter says in this news release. The student's claims against the a prosecutor's office were not settled and will proceed through litigation, the release said.

In March, I reported here that a federal appeals court ruled that the prosecutor likely overstepped constitutional boundaries when he threatened the student with prosecution over the alleged "sexting."

Shock Therapy: In a separate case, "the family of a former student who received electric shocks at a special needs school has agreed to receive $65,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming the treatment was inhumane and violated the student's civil rights," the AP reports.

The case involves "aversive therapies" used at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Mass. The settlement comes after a federal appeals court in 2008 ordered a lower-court to reconsider an injunction that had barred the New York State Education Department from enforcing an emergency regulation against the shock therapy, which I reported on in the blog here.

The New York State agency became involved because the Massachusetts school serves students who have been referred there as part of their special education plans. The U.S. Department of Justice said this past February that it had begun an inquiry into the school's methods.

The school contends that parents consent to the use of shock therapy when enrolling their children in the Judge Rotenberg Center. The AP reports that settlement came in a suit filed in 2006 on behalf of Antwone Nicholson, then 17, of Freeport, N.Y., who attended the school for about four years. Nicholson's mother, Evelyn, became concerned that the shock therapy was used in far more circumstances than she thought it would and became "inhumane," her lawyer told AP.

The school issued a statement calling the settlement "minimal" and something requested by its insurer. The school defends its practices on its website.

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