Published December 23, 2006
KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. – Making a movie in which evil teddy bears attack a teacher got two budding filmmakers expelled from their high school, but a federal judge says it was the school that was wrong.
However, the judge said the boys should apologize.
Cody Overbay and Isaac Imel, both sophomores, must be allowed to return to Knightstown High School for the second semester, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker said Friday in Indianapolis in granting a preliminary injunction. She also ordered the school to allow the students to make up any work they had missed since their expulsions in October.
The boys worked on the movie "The Teddy Bear Master" from fall 2005 through summer 2006. It depicts a "teddy bear master" ordering stuffed animals to kill a teacher who had embarrassed him, but students battle the toy beasts, according to documents filed in court.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued on behalf of the two teenagers last month arguing that school officials overreacted to a film parody and violated their First Amendment rights.
"I had a feeling we'd come out the winner," Imel said.
Attorneys for the school district did not say if they would appeal.
School officials had argued that the film was disruptive and that a teacher whose name was used in the movie found it threatening. Prosecutors reviewed the movie but declined to press charges.
State law allows expulsion for activity unconnected with school if the activity is unlawful and interferes with school operations.
The judge said the movie was "vulgar," "tasteless," "humiliating" and "obscene," but ruled that school officials did not prove it disrupted school.
The judge said she did not believe it was a coincidence that the teacher in the movie had the same name as a math teacher at Knightstown Intermediate School. She urged the teens to apologize to the teacher and the school administration.
"School officials need to know you've learned a lesson," Barker said.