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Student Sues Over Denial of Protest on Campus

June 14, 2006|David Kelly | Times Staff Writer

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.

School officials denied the Jurupa Valley High School senior's 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 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.

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."

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