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MISSION VIEJO : Teacher Vows to Fight Student's Suit to End

February 01, 1995|FRANK MESSINA

A Mission Viejo High School instructor who is being sued by a student over the school's controversial devil logo will have a 500-mile trek to court after taking a new job in San Jose.

Terry Sheppard, a popular telecommunications instructor, vows he will fly back to Orange County whenever necessary to battle the lawsuit.

"I'm only one hour from Orange County by plane," he said. "I will be there."

Sheppard will leave the school Monday to join Media Arts Group Inc., a fine arts publisher, where he will be the director of electronic media.

"It was an offer that was difficult to refuse," he said. "But my leaving won't affect my position on the lawsuit."

Sheppard and former Mission Viejo High School student Jeremy Carlucci are scheduled to be in court May 30.

Carlucci, 19, claims Sheppard and the Saddleback Valley Unified School District punished him during the 1991-92 school year for wearing a devil logo--then banned by the school but reinstated last year--by lowering his grades.

He filed the lawsuit against Sheppard and the district in 1993, asserting that his free speech rights were violated.

Sheppard acknowledges that there were confrontations with Carlucci over the logo but said his former pupil was a discipline problem who was constantly tardy to class.

"I'll take this one to the end because it's a matter of principle," he said. "Teachers in America don't need to be threatened with lawsuits over common discipline problems every time they turn around."

The devil logo had been banned by the school nine years ago in response to protests by parents.

The fierce devil image never lost its popularity with students and several youths claimed they were disciplined by the school for wearing the logo, a charge administrators have denied.

A new, less sinister devil figure was approved in a special student body election last year.

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