- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The (Munster) Times. February 16, 2018

Hoosier high court ruling is win for beach access

Region beach users, our burgeoning lakefront tourism industry and all lovers of free Lake Michigan access won a key victory in an Indiana Supreme Court ruling earlier this week.

In the 4-0 ruling, the state’s high court held that the lakeshore is open to all and not subject to restrictions of private landowners whose property is contiguous with this great Northwest Indiana natural wonder.

While we, and likely every Region lover of Lake Michigan beach access, laud the ruling, we also remind beach users to remain respectful of the private landowners when using this great gift.

The Indiana Supreme Court’s Wednesday ruling definitively sets the ordinary high water mark as the boundary between the state-owned public lakeshore and the interests of private property owners.

Though there are some specifics to that definition, it essentially opens the beachfront immediately contiguous with the water to public use.

Within that area, the public is allowed to access the water for traditional purposes of swimming, navigation, commerce or fishing.

The court also ruled that, at a minimum, walking on those stretches of beach is protected public use.

The ruling also rightly leaves “any enlargement of public rights” to the beaches up to state lawmakers.

In the end, the decision settles a longstanding dispute that threatened to limit public access to the lake and associated tourism.

While the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s a solid step in the right direction for Hoosier beach access.

In taking advantage of this freedom, we all must be mindful of being good public neighbors to the private landowners who border these stretches of beach.

Keeping these areas clean, not tramping through private property to access public land and generally being respectful are important considerations.

It’s an inherent responsibility attached to a public right.


The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. February 15, 2018

MCCSC acts to address two big issues

Two pieces of good news came out the Monroe County Community School Corp. board meeting this week. The two bits of news addressed significant issues in the community.

One involves an early learning center MCCSC plans to open for children preschool-age and younger by the fall. Parents are expected to be able to begin registering their children next week.

The greater community - including the school corporation, United Way of Monroe County and the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County - has been working to provide more high-quality early education opportunities and child care options for more than a few years. Stacks of research show the importance early learning can have in giving young people a solid base for life, including better educational outcomes, higher earning potential and lower costs to social institutions.

MCCSC Superintendent Judy DeMuth noted at the school board meeting this week that she had received a lot of calls about what the school corporation might be able to do to offset the recent closure of an Indiana University child care co-op and the closing of the child care center at the northwest YMCA. She said the calls “really inspired us to dig in, because there’s need for day care in this community.”

And so the school corporation has stepped up with a facility that can serve up to 90 children, including infants, toddlers and those of preschool age. The facility will have classrooms and a play room.

The center will be open only 40 weeks a year, consistent with the schedule of the MCCSC. That might not work out for all parents, but it will go a long way to help fill the community need.

On another issue, the board is planning to increase offerings of Middle Way House’s “Building Healthy Relationships” curriculum. That will expand access to an important program now offered to many MCCSC students.

The curriculum touches on a number of things important for young people to know. Many of the topics could have been ripped from recent headlines.

Lessons include combating stereotypes about relationships and exploring the definition of healthy relationships. Other lessons in the week-long program cover consent in a way that allows students to submit questions anonymously to take some of the sensitivity and fear out of talking about the topic in front of their peers.

The program is currently available in MCCSC middle schools, at Bloomington High School North and at Bloomington Graduation School. The corporation hopes to expand the program to Bloomington High School South and the Academy of Science and Entrepreneurship, and is working with Middle Way House to develop an online module.

This is an important area of inquiry and study for teens. Bravo to MCCSC and Middle Way House for their efforts.


South Bend Tribune. February 14, 2018

Press on to protect student journalists

Add House Bill 1016 to the list of legislation to die a sad death in this session of the Indiana General Assembly.

HB 1016 was hardly a high-profile bill, but its aim made it well worth supporting: The bill, authored by Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, would have protected student journalists’ rights.

The measure, which failed due to lack of a constitutional majority, would have prohibited schools from limiting students’ rights to free press and speech unless certain conditions applied, including if the material was libelous, slanderous or violates federal or state law. It was similar to a law that passed in the House by a wide margin last year but failed in the Senate.

Clere noted that some schools already have press freedoms and “it works well.”

“Other schools take the path of least resistance and exercise absolute control at the expense of students and the community,” he said.

The bill attracted broad support, including from conservative and constitutional hardliners as well as some of the most liberal members of the chamber. Others supporting the bill included the state’s public colleges and universities.

Those opposed to HB 1016 included the Indiana Association of School Principals and the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents. Lawmakers who voted against the bill described it as “dangerous.” Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, said the bill would erode the authority of school leadership.

“You will have mass chaos in some of your schools,” said Cook, a former school superintendent.

Stephen Key, executive director and general counselor for the Hoosier State Press Association, expressed disappointment at what he called the use of scare tactics to persuade votes against the measure. He noted that there has been no evidence of chaos or fighting in the other states that have similar laws.

Key also encouraged Hoosier student journalists not to give up “on the idea of being able to practice and learn the responsibilities and importance of journalists.”

At a time of rampant “fake news” attacks, it’s never been more important that young journalists understand the power and responsibilities of a free press. They cannot learn such lessons if they operate in fear of censorship from school boards and administrators. House Bill 1016 would have armed them with the protections that every American journalist - whether they’re working at the Washington Post or for their school newspaper - should rightly claim as their own.

HB 1016 has died, but the fight for a free press in Hoosier schools must live on.


The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. February 15, 2018

Indiana case likely social-media precedent

The legal community took notice last week of what might be the first-in-the-nation case of court-ordered damages awarded over a defamatory social media post.

Zerlie Charles was awarded $6,000 in Scott Superior Small Claims Court after the court ruled she was defamed in a Facebook post by Vickie D. Vest, who had dated Charles’ son before he died in 2015. Vest reported Robert Charles’ truck stolen a few days after his death and, in a Facebook post, accused Zerlie Charles of the theft.

A different trial court judge initially ruled the case failed to meet the standard for defamation. But Zerlie Charles’ attorneys won a reversal in October at the Indiana Court of Appeals, which also noted that Vest admitted she stole the truck. The appellate panel remanded the case for a determination of money damages for Charles.

The plaintiff’s attorneys asked the appellate court to publish its memorandum decision, arguing there were few defamation per se rulings in case law, and that the popularity of Facebook “makes these facts and legal conclusions of substantial public importance,” and “publication of this opinion can caution clients against the improper use” of Facebook.

“A lay person probably feels they have a First Amendment right to say whatever they want to, but that’s definitely not the case if you’re harming people with what you’re saying,” Spencer said.


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