Friday, February 24, 2012

Is the ACLU actively supporting the suppression of free speech in schools?

See all posts on the San Diego ACLU.

Why is the San Diego ACLU trying to silence free speech for teachers at the same time that it is protecting free speech for students? I understand why school attorneys want to keep the public unaware of what goes on behind closed doors in our schools, but why is ACLU attorney David Loy so interested in helping them?

I have long wondered if the ACLU was doing California Teachers Association little favors by refusing to take free speech cases for teachers. The recently-retired CTA head counsel Beverly Tucker had previously worked for the ACLU.

I got my answer on April 28, 2010 (see email below from David Loy). Yes, I learned, the ACLU definitely tries to silence teachers who don't speak through the union.

I attended the Annual Membership meeting of the San Diego ACLU today, and listened to ACLU attorney David Loy boast about how the ACLU had protected student free speech.

I asked him, "What about free speech for teachers?"

Mr. Loy responded with only one case, Johnson v. Poway, a case in which the ACLU supported a teacher who draped huge banners with religious admonitions across his classroom. The ACLU's victory in the district court was overturned by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal:

"We thus reverse and remand with instructions that the district court vacate its grant of injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as its award of damages, and enter summary judgment in favor of Poway and its officials on all claims. Johnson shall bear all costs. Fed. R. App. P. 39(a)(3)."

Daniel R. Shinoff, Jack M. Sleeth, Jr. (argued), Paul V. Carelli, IV, Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, APC, San Diego, California, for defendants-appellants Poway Unified School District, et al

David Blair-Loy, ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties, San Diego, California, for Amicus Curiae American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties in Support of plaintiff (Johnson)

Apparently California Teachers Association didn't take part in this case.

Neither David Loy nor Kevin Keenan could think of another case in which the ACLU had defended freedom of speech for teachers, but they noted that the ACLU frequently defends the free speech rights of law enforcement officers. Is this perhaps because the police unions don't donate to the ACLU like the teacher unions do?

Even Lori Shellenberger, the San Diego ACLU's "civic engagement" attorney, is vehemently uninterested in free speech for teachers. She spoke at the Annual Membership meeting about the voting rights workshops she held for parents throughout the school district, and giving parents the chance to speak about what they wanted from schools. I told Ms. Shellenberger, "What good are voting rights when parents don't know what is going on in schools? Democracy requires an informed electorate. You want to expand parent participation, but you keep parents ignorant by silencing teachers who know what's going on in schools." Ms. Shellenberger said she wasn't interested in free speech. Her associate Vince Hall specifically told me he wasn't interested in my letter to the ACLU board.

It would seem to me that Shellenberger and Hall are unlikely to improve schools unless they're willing to work toward transparency in schools, to reveal the secret life of schools. They are basically asking parents to stand up and address the powers behind the curtain of secrecy in schools in the manner in which Dorothy, the Tin Man and friends addressed the Wizard of Oz. The ACLU wants to make sure the curtain is not pulled back revealing a charlatan pulling strings.

Interestingly, Mr. Keenan is convinced that the U.S. Supreme Court will overrule the Ninth Circuit. "We always win," said Kevin Keenan. If the ACLU wins in the U.S. Supreme Court, it will not be with the aid of the civil libertarians on the court, I believe. It will be with the aid of those who want the U.S. to be a Christian nation. Mr. Keenan's goal is apparently to win, not to stick to the ACLU's principles. He spends years trying to get the cross taken down from Mount Soledad in San Diego, only to turn around and try to get it erected (figuratively speaking) in a classroom in Poway.

Not so. The ACLU tried to silence my website discussions about Stutz law firm, which represented the school district in this case. The Court of Appeal didn't go along with the ACLU's position, ruling instead that an injunction completely silencing my discussion of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz was "exceedingly unconstitutional."

Mr. Keenan bemoaned the fact that the San Diego Zoo has more members that the ACLU does, even when counting all ACLU members in the entire country. The reason might be that the ACLU compromised its principles a bit too often, pushing out ordinary people who demand equal treatment with the good old boys and girls in the ACLU power structure. In fact, Mr. Keenan said to me, "I'm surprised you're still a member." I'm not the one who has a problem with equal treatment for everyone, Mr. Keenan. But I'm curious, how many ordinary people has the ACLU intimidated into giving up their civil rights? They tried to get me to take down my website, but I didn't think much of their exhortations.

Mr. Loy tried to get me to obey an obviously unconstitutional injunction:

to Maura Larkins
date Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 9:18 PM
...However, the law does not allow anyone - a government official or a private person - to disobey a court order because they believe it is illegal. Under the law, the proper course is to seek appellate review of an order, and/or a stay of the order,rather than to disobey it. The rule of law in our system depends on compliance with court orders until or unless they are stayed or reversed...

Mr. Loy must also have known I was not legally required to de-publish the information about Stutz law firm on my website while the injunction was under appeal. (The mandative aspects of an injunction are staying during that time.) Either Mr. Loy was shockingly ignorant of the law, or he was intentionally deceiving me about the law to protect Stutz law firm when he said, “The rule of law in our system depends on compliance with court orders until or unless they are stayed or reversed...”. Why would he do this? To earn “civility” awards from the Bar Association? As a sort of trade-off of free speech rights, helping Dan Shinoff silence a teacher in exchange for Mr. Shinoff’s agreeing to settle student speech cases? To please donors to the ACLU who care less about education than they do about preserving the power of certain individuals in schools?

The Court of Appeal didn’t agree with Stutz law firm and the ACLU; on August 5, 2011 it ruled that the injunction Mr. Loy wanted me to obey was “exceedingly unconstitutional.” Of course, Mr. Loy knew perfectly well that the injunction was unconstitutional when he insisted that I must obey it.

But here’s the larger question: why did the ACLU board support Mr. Loy’s actions?


I asked this question of ACLU board member Hon. James Stiven. He said, "I'm not getting involved because I'm a part of this organization." Wait a minute. Isn't that exactly why he has an obligation to get involved? He's on the board! He's in charge!

I said, "So if ACLU lawyers do something hostile to civil rights, you wouldn't intervene?"

He said, "I don't know that they have done anything wrong."

I said, "Yes you do. You're a judge."

Here's what they've done wrong:

1) To start with, David Loy aided and abetted a violation of my constitutional rights. I believe he intentionally gave me false legal advice in an effort to silence me.

2) The San Diego ACLU seeks and gets money by false advertising. I have heard ACLU speakers around town repeating what Kevin Keenan said at the 2012 Annual Membership meeting, "We guarantee rights for all people, not just the people we like. We stand up for equal protection of all people."

3) The above tactics have been approved at the highest levels of the San Diego ACLU. The San Diego ACLU Board knows about and tacitly approves the above actions.

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