Another High School Student Punished for Free Speech
When a school assembly in Mira Loma turned into a virtual rally supporting illegal immigrants, a frustrated Joshua Denhalter asked permission to hold his own demonstration.As it usually the case, speech is considered “disruptive” if it comes from conservatives, but not if it comes from the left.
The Jurupa Valley High School senior carefully typed up an agenda with speakers and topics to be covered and gave it to school officials. They denied his request, citing fears that a protest could lead to violence.
Annoyed yet undeterred, 18-year-old Denhalter tried to organize an off-campus rally in March but was suspended for three days for handing out fliers about it on school property. He was also told he couldn’t wear a T-shirt with anti-illegal immigrant slogan emblazoned on the front.
Denhalter, of Mira Loma, responded last week with a $25,000 lawsuit against the Jurupa Unified School District, saying his free speech rights had been violated and his reputation damaged. He wants an apology, the suspension erased from his record and an acknowledgment that the school was wrong.
“They pretty much silenced me; they put me in a box,” he said. “They did it because they feared what the other side might do. Because of that, my rights were curtailed.”
Denhalter is scheduled to appear in Riverside County Superior Court today to ask a judge for a restraining order against his school that would require it to let him hold his rally and wear his T-shirt. The school year ends next week.
The school district denied the allegations in a prepared statement, saying a forum was arranged on campus to give all students the right to express their views on the immigration debate.
It noted that students didn’t have an unfettered right to free speech “when such speech incites students to break rules or substantially disrupt school operations.”
Richard Ackerman, Denhalter’s attorney, said the school muzzled Denhalter out of fear that he would be controversial. At the same time, he said, they allowed MEChA, a Latino student club, to organize the school rally supporting the rights of illegal immigrants.
“The only reason they gave for what they did was that his actions would be disruptive,” Ackerman said. “It’s a discussion of a legitimate political issue. In my opinion, they have an agenda besides keeping the peace. It’s political correctness run amok. The government should not be deciding what is controversial.”
This was the case of a student in California who wore an anti-homosexuality t-shirt in the wake of a “Day of Silence” during which the school, in effect, endorsed the gay political agenda.
And there was a recent similar case in North Carolina.
The implication is that politically correct victim groups are allowed to turn violent if they hear or see something that they disagree with, but politically incorrect groups (Christians, whites, Republicans) are expected to just accept opinions contrary to theirs.