Three Knightstown High School students expelled over a homemade horror film parody that features killer teddy bears have settled civil rights lawsuits they brought against their school corporation.
The settlement — approved 5-2 by the Charles A. Beard school board at its March 20 meeting — requires the school corporation’s insurer pay a total of $69,000 to cover the students’ damages and attorney fees. The school corporation has also agreed to expunge the students’ disciplinary record and allow the students to make up work missed during the 10 weeks they were out of school.
KHS sophomores Isaac Imel, Cody Overbay, Charlie Ours and a fourth student were expelled last fall after school officials obtained a copy of The Teddy Bear Master, the students’ South Park-inspired spoof of the late ’80s horror film The Puppet Master. Although it had been made on the students’ own time away from school, school officials claimed the film threatened and defamed a CAB teacher that shared the same last name as a teacher character in the film.
Imel and Overbay sued CAB, claiming the expulsions violated their rights of free speech under the First Amendment. In an early victory for the students, a federal judge in Indianapolis issued a preliminary injunction in December that allowed Imel and Overbay to return to school while their cases were pending. Ours was added to the lawsuit as a third plaintiff in late January.
As part of the settlement, Imel and Ours are required to pen letters of apology to the local teacher who shares the same last name as the teacher in the film. Additionally, all three students must provide the teacher with a written statement that says a scene where the teacher character exchanges extra credit for oral sex with a student (portrayed in the film by a small stuffed Santa Claus doll) “has no basis of fact.”