Resolution Statement 09387-19 Brooks v Evening Telegraph (Dundee)
Summary of complaint
1. Claire Brooks, on behalf of her son, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Evening Telegraph (Dundee) breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Perth Academy parents demand public apology after head boy and girl humiliate classmates in ‘racy’ speeches”, published on 21 June 2019.
2. The article, which was published online, stated that another publication had reported that parents had called for an apology from two senior pupils of a school after the “racy” content of a leavers day speech had left them “horrified” after it “humiliated” fellow pupils. The article reported that the council had confirmed that the school had received a complaint.
3. The complainant, who attended the event, said that the article gave an inaccurate account of the speech her son, then an S6 pupil, had given at the leavers’ event at his school. She said that the speech did not humiliate, bully, or ruin the lives of pupils as alleged; the content focused on their friends who had consented to their inclusion and the speech was well received. She said that the article presented a one-sided and biased account based solely on the view of the two parents, whom she alleged were related. The complainant disputed that any more than one younger child attended the event, but that in any event, the content was not unsuitable for a younger audience. She noted that there were no swear or sexual words in the speech and that the jokes were almost entirely innuendo.
4. The complainant said that the article intruded into her son’s time at school in breach of Clause 6 and its publication had caused her son stress and risked damaging his reputation. The complainant said that her son still had school duties to undertake at the time of publication; the speech was given on 17 June and his final duties were to take place on 27 June. He was therefore still a pupil of the school until the end of the academic session; whether his academic studies were completed was irrelevant. The complainant noted that learning was not limited to academic qualifications and emphasised that school provides an environment for pupils to practise for the world of work and life after education; pupils should be allowed to try and fail free from the scrutiny of newspapers in the event they misjudge a situation. The complainant also said that due to the size of their hometown everyone would have known who the two pupils were and as a result her son was identifiable in the article.
5. The publication denied any breach of the Code. It said that the article was not inaccurate, and noted that it did not contain the quotes from the disgruntled parents as alleged by the complainant; it had just referenced the complaint. It also denied any breach of Clause 6 and disputed that pointing out the “racy” nature of the speech represented an intrusion into the complainant’s son’s time at school. Further, the publication noted that the article did not name the pupils and disputed that they were identifiable from the information featured in the article.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Clause 6 (Children)
i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
8. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to remove the article.
9. The complainant said that she was content to resolve the matter on this basis.
10. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 06/12/19
Date complaint concluded: 03/04/2020
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