A federal judge has ruled against a former student columnist who claims he was reprimanded and disciplined by his California high school for writing two opinion editorials opposing illegal immigration and affirmative action.
A lawsuit filed by former Novato High School student Andrew Smith alleges the district violated his free-speech rights by confiscating copies of his articles and publicly apologizing for them. The case went to trial earlier this month, and in his ruling Marin County Judge John Sutro said he found no evidence Smith's rights were violated. According to Judge Sutro, Smith's articles were equivalent to something from “a white power publication or Ku Klux Klan.”
Smith's attorney, Arthur Mark with the Pacific Legal Foundation, says it is unfortunate that the judge only considered federal law, and not the state standard.
“The law that was applied in this case was the wrong legal standard,” Mark says. “California has very strong protections for high school students, especially those that want to express unpopular viewpoints and across the nation these days, an unpopular viewpoint in high school could be a conservative or non-politically correct viewpoint.”
The attorney feels the district's apology implies the student author was outside the bounds of personal freedom when expressing his opinion through the articles.
“It is our position that that telegraphed to students in Novato High School and in the district that Andrew had done something wrong, and that the school was in no way supportive of the free-speech rights of students,” he says.
Mark also claims his client was verbally and physically abused by Hispanic students who took offense to his article against illegal immigration. Smith is reportedly considering whether to appeal the case.