Student To Get $45,000 To Settle Suit Filed After Removal of Nude Statue
A Florida high school student has reached a $45,000 settlement with the Broward County district in a federal lawsuit challenging the removal of her statue of a nude male figure from public display at the school.
Soon after Rebecca Antolak, a 17-year old junior at Dillard High School, began work on the sculpture early last year in the lobby of the performing arts annex of the school, some students and staff members complained.
Principal John Kelly ordered the statue removed and stored, even though a sculpture of a nude female and paintings that featured nude women were on display as well, the lawsuit charged.
"Our basic argument was about censorship," said Steven Wisotsky, a professor of law at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, who represented Ms. Antolak. "But there was also the issue of a double standard."
In addition to the $45,000 settlement--$20,000 of which will go to legal fees--the school board agreed to revise its policy on student expression. The settlement, which was filed in federal court in Miami last month, is awaiting approval by a U.S. district judge.
Lawyers for the district did not return telephone calls last week.
Policy Change Sought
Ms. Antolak filed a lawsuit against the 200,000-student district last March, seeking to have her statue released from storage.
Late last fall, Ms. Antolak's lawyers offered to end the suit without any payment to the student. The offer would have required the Broward County school board to display her work, offer training to teachers on student-expression issues, and more narrowly define the district's current policy that allows administrators to ban art, speech, or articles that could "cause embarrassment" or otherwise disrupt the educational process.
But the settlement negotiations stalled over the district's reluctance to change that policy, according to Mr. Wisotsky.
"It's true that rights of students are limited, but at the same time the case was particularly compelling," Mr. Wisotsky said last week. The fact that Ms. Antolak was enrolled in a program for creating artwork gave the case added significance, he said.
Although Ms. Antolak finished her sculpture, it has not been displayed at the school. It has, however, been displayed at a local museum and is now up for sale.