Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It turns out that our local ACLU lead attorney David Blair-Loy does have a little bit of spine after all

At the last ACLU general meeting in San Diego, David Blair-Loy said litigation is the "worst alternative." His preferred alternative is negotiation in a highly civil manner with school attorneys behind closed doors. He's been negotiating with Southwestern College for over a year regarding free speech for employees. He's apparently not into free speech for adults in schools: he even sent me an email telling me I'd better stop talking about school attorneys. He didn't tell me to stop making a specific objecthttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifionable statement--he told me to stop talking about them altogether!!!

But it looks like he does support free speech for students (at least as long as no attorneys are being criticized).

La Jolla High's Bench Ban Draws ACLU Ire
May 17, 2011
by Randy Dotinga
Voice of San Diego

The ACLU is suing the school district over La Jolla High's refusal to allow political messages to be painted on "senior benches," the U-T reports. The paper says the principal ordered that messages regarding Iran be covered up, "saying the benches were reserved for positive messages of school spirit."

An authority-challenging student followed up with messages saying "Freedom for LJHS & Iran" and "Ed. Code 48907," a reference to a section of the state Education Code that supports free speech for students. You can guess what happened to those messages: they got covered up too.

At least students got a nice lesson in irony.

ACLU sues school district over bench dispute
La Jolla High principal ordered student messages covered up
By Maureen Magee
May 16, 2011

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the San Diego school district Monday, claiming that La Jolla High School illegally blotted out political messages painted by Iranian-American students on “senior benches” that have long served as an open forum on campus.

Students supportive of the Middle Eastern anti-government movement painted “Freedom For Iran,” and “Down with Dictator,” on three concrete benches in February following a massive protest in Iran. But hours later, the principal had the messages covered up, saying the benches were reserved for positive messages of school spirit.

The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial counties argues that La Jolla High’s benches have been painted and repainted for years — with no established standard for monitoring the benches, and that “positive messages” is a “vague and unconstitutional standard for curtailing student speech.”

The ACLU is seeking unspecified damages and it hopes to force the school to open up the benches to all students who want to express their freedom of speech.

“Our hope is that La Jolla High School will recognize that the benches are within the free speech protection of the California law,” said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties. “These benches have been a glorious forum for free speech at La Jolla High for years. And unless the messages are obscene, libelous or slanderous, they should be allowed under the law.”

The San Diego Unified School District would not comment on the lawsuit that was filed in San Diego Superior Court. A spokesman said the district has not been served legal papers and would not respond until it can formally review such documents.

La Jolla High senior Yasamin Elahi, who painted the original messages that launched the free speech debate, chose not to get involved in the lawsuit. But she said she supports the effort to promote civil rights on her campus.

“I never did any of this to get attention or hurt my school,” said Yasamin, president of the campus Persian Club. “I wrote the messages so kids would realize that there is a lot going on outside the world in La Jolla that they live in. I also want them to fight for free speech.”

Upset that Elahi’s messages were blotted out, La Jolla High senior Yumehiko Hoshijima painted “Freedom for LJHS & Iran” along with “Ed. Code 48907,” on the benches — messages that were also whitewashed by the administration. Yumehiko is working with the ACLU on the lawsuit.

The ACLU said it tried unsuccessfully to work to resolve the matter without litigation but that the district responded negatively.

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