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Let’s not convict anyone in the court of public opinion

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

There are times when news breaks in a small, tight-knit community and creates a natural human reaction: passionate outcry.

In the past six days, the Ruston community has been affected by one of these stories.

The lawsuit filed against Cedar Creek School and parents of former students for alleged bullying and sexual assault of another former student has become a hot-button issue.

We witnessed something similar when the Ruston Daily Leader published stories about an alleged sexual assault of a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

That story in recent months also drew passionate responses from the public, and that’s understandable.

The Cedar Creek lawsuit seems to have taken public response to another level — to the point where there are protests attempting to be organized in support of the plaintiff in this case.

We urge everyone in the public to try to use patience in this particular case. At this point in our reporting, there has been a lawsuit filed, and that’s the extent.

Cedar Creek has released statements denying some of what the lawsuit has described. The family who filed the suit is standing by their accusations, according to their lawyer.

One way or another, the details of this case will be argued in a court of law. We still don’t know if criminal charges will be filed as a result of a police investigation that has been completed and turned over to the district attorney’s office.

In our country, those accused are innocent until proven guilty. We know that the students accused of bullying are no longer attending Cedar Creek. Whether they bullied the plaintiff, or to the extent described in the suit, will be determined eventually.

What we cannot do, as a city and as a community, is succumb to emotional reaction and begin a proverbial roundup of a posse with pitchforks in hand.

When juveniles are involved in something that elicits this type of reaction, it’s part of human nature.

The knee-jerk reaction is to choose sides and then begin a prosecution in the court of public opinion.

At this point, there is much to learn about this case in the coming days. Be patient, and we promise we will be reporting the story with complete openness and professionalism.