The Texas Supreme Court ruled today in favor of the Dallas Observer and against two Denton County public officials who sued the alternative newspaper over a 1999 satire it published.
The 8-0 ruling by the court came in a lawsuit over a Dallas Observer article about the fictional arrest of a 6-year-old girl.
The piece, published in 1999 under the headline "Stop the Madness," was a parody of the actual arrest of a 13-year-old Ponder student for reading a graphic Halloween story to the class. The fictional story was about a girl jailed for a report on Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are."
Denton County Court-at-law Judge Darlene Whitten and District Attorney Bruce Isaacks said the fictional story was presented as news and damaged their reputations.
The Dallas Observer said the article, which some readers thought was true, was satire and designed to poke fun. An attorney for the newspaper argued the piece was protected by the First Amendment.
The court agreed, saying a reasonable reader of the entire article would realize it was not true and was intended as satire. The justices rejected lower court opinions and said Whitten and Isaacks should take nothing in the case.
Cindy's trouble began Monday morning, when the mother of one of her classmates called school officials to complain that students at Ponder were encouraged to read books that could cause students to think dangerous thoughts. The officials then contacted Dr. Byron Welch, who runs the Denton county school district, who in turn contacted juvenile authorities.
"In this day and age, you never know what students might do, and I can't risk another Columbine," Welch says. "Frankly, these kids scare the crap out of me."
Welch also confirmed reports that school representatives will soon join several local faith-based organizations, including God-Fearing Opponents of Freedom (GOOF), and ask publishers to review content guidelines for children's books.
By 5 p.m. Tuesday, the day's events were beginning to take their toll on Cindy, who asked her mom to bring her pink pajamas, the ones with the kangaroos on them, before lights-out.
"I don't get why everyone's so mad," Cindy said in a phone interview from the detention center. "Just 'cause I like how Max told his mom he wanted to eat her up and ran away in his mind and did a rumpus with the monsters doesn't mean I would do those things."
Cindy scoffed at the suggestion that Where the Wild Things Are can corrupt young minds.
"Like, I'm sure," she said. "It's bad enough people think like Salinger and Twain are dangerous, but Sendak? Give me a break, for Christ's sake. Excuse my French."
UPDATE: Beldar has some good commentary on this in the comments. Check it out.Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 03, 2004 to Legal matters | TrackBack