Significant Free Speech Victory at La Jolla High

SAN DIEGO – La Jolla High School (LJHS) must stop whitewashing political messages from the campus’s senior benches, a Superior Court judge ordered this afternoon in the ACLU’s case on behalf of Yumehiko Hoshijima. The stipulated preliminary injunction signed by Judge Jeffrey B. Barton represents an important victory in the fight for freedom of speech at the LJHS Campus.

Since February 2011, LJHS’s principal, Dana Shelburne, declared a virtual war on students’ right to express themselves on the school’s “senior benches,” a traditional forum for student speech. For generations, the school has allowed students to paint messages on the benches. But, on February 15, the day after massive popular protests erupted in Iran, Shelburne immediately painted over messages on the benches by two LJHS students advocating “Freedom for Iran” and “Down with Dictator”.

“It riles me to see my alma mater turn its back on the First Amendment,” said Jean-Paul Jassy, an LJHS graduate (class of ’92) and partner in Bostwick & Jassy LLP, co-counsel in the present lawsuit against Shelburne and the School District. “The students at La Jolla High School should know that free speech is alive and well.”

Shelburne declared that the benches are reserved only for “positive messages about LJHS students and school activities.” As argued by the ACLU and co-counsel Bostwick & Jassy, “positive messages” is a vague and unconstitutional standard for curtailing student speech. Shelburne also announced that he intended to remove the benches with a forklift after learning of the lawsuit. The ACLU petitioned the court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop Shelburne from continuing to censor the benches. The judge’s order also specifies that no disciplinary action should be taken against the students.

“This is an important preliminary victory,” said David Blair-Loy, legal director of the San Diego ACLU. “Now that the censorship is halted, we can move forward to resolve the case.”


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