Parents of an alleged rape victim have sued Yukon Progress, its publisher and two other newspaper employees for a published story about a high school teacher and student who engaged in a sexual relationship.
Lyndon Shumaker and Jennifer Hays filed the lawsuit against the newspaper on behalf of their son Connor Shumaker, 16. The student reportedly had sex with his high school science teacher Hunter Day and had engaged in a “friends with benefits” relationship for about 30 days before her arrest, a court document shows.
Day resigned her Yukon High School teaching position after being arrested and later charged with second-degree rape and soliciting sexual conduct with a minor by use of technology.
The lawsuit alleges the newspaper defamed the student by publishing his name and a photo of the teenager, which was obtained from his Snapchat account. The parents claim in the lawsuit the Snapchat photo was altered by another individual not connected to the published story or the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges publication of the teen’s name and the photo “presented C.S. in a false and defamatory light.
A caption under the photo stated, “the face you make when you ruin a bitch life and send her to prison for 10 years for rape and child pornography.” The lawsuit alleges the caption was placed under the photo without the teen’s consent. However, the lawsuit does not specify who altered the photo and placed the caption under the Snapchat photo.
An attorney who said he represented the parents called the newspaper office shortly before 5 p.m. on Nov. 17, demanding the Nov. 18 edition be pulled from the racks and that all newspaper deliveries be halted. That edition, which included the story about the teacher’s relationship with the student, had already been printed, placed on the racks and sent to the postal service for delivery the next day.
The lawsuit also alleges the Nov. 18, 2017, article was written “in such a manner as to imply C.S. was pleased with being the victim of sex crimes or otherwise braggadocios with his involvement as the victim of sex crimes.”
Rachel Bussett, an attorney for Yukon Progress, defended the newspaper’s decisions.
“My clients believe that they have acted professionally, appropriately and legally at all times in their publications. The circumstances involving the student are quite upsetting all around. However, my client has an obligation as a newspaper to report the news both good, bad and sometimes even salacious. This is why we have the freedom of the press protections under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 2 section 22 of the Oklahoma Constitution. While the protections are not limitless, we believe that the court will find the newspaper acted lawfully in its publications,” Bussett said.
Sources told the newspaper the student sent nude photos of Day to all Yukon High School coaches. The lawsuit claims the teenager never did that. In the Nov. 25 edition of the Yukon Progress, Yukon Superintendent Jason Simeroth said nude photos were not sent to the coaches.
Individuals named in the lawsuit are Publisher Randy K. Anderson, News Editor Tim Farley and Staff Writer Mindy Ragan Wood.
The lawsuit alleges the newspaper and its employees defamed the teenager, invaded his privacy and inflicted emotional distress with its coverage in the Nov. 18 and Nov. 25 editions.