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School sues radio station

Academia Semillas del Pueblo claims a talk-show host made slanderous remarks.

April 19, 2007|Tami Abdollah and Howard Blume | Times Staff Writers

A year-long feud between a talk radio personality and an L.A. charter school is ending up in an unusual court case.

School administrators filed a lawsuit this week against KABC-AM (790) and Doug McIntyre, alleging the host of "McIntyre in the Morning" targeted the school in a slanderous, racially motivated campaign last summer that resulted in a bomb threat to the school and ongoing security risks.

Academia Semillas del Pueblo and Marcos Aguilar, the El Sereno school's co-director, claim McIntyre "targeted the school for destruction because the children were Latino, the teachers were Latino, the principal director was Latino," according to the suit.

About 92% of the school's 327 students are Latino.

The school was founded in 2002 with the mission of "providing urban children of immigrant families an excellent education founded upon native and maternal languages, cultural values and global realities," with teaching primarily in Spanish.

It became a focus of controversy last year when McIntyre accused the school of pursuing a racist, separatist and dangerously revolutionary agenda. The allegations were looked into by Los Angeles Unified School District officials. They found nothing politically worrisome, but they did have serious concerns about the school's low test scores, which were a secondary focus for McIntyre.

The conflict between KABC and the school first made headlines last year.

Last June, a man tried to run down a KABC radio reporter who was outside the campus interviewing parents. The suspect was arrested on assault charges. School backers insist the incident had nothing to do with them.

KABC spokesman Steve Sheldon said the station would not comment on the lawsuit.

McIntyre has worked for KABC for about five years. His morning talk show, which is from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., has been on the air for roughly two years and is advertised as offering a "balanced look at the day's hot topics with a healthy dose of humor that keeps listeners coming back for more."

Talk radio hosts have long taken advantage of 1st Amendment free speech protections that give them broad latitude. The suit alleges, however, that McIntyre is guilty of civil rights violations for inciting others to harm the school and its students, as well as slander.

According to the court filing, McIntyre made a number of false statements, including: "His [Aguilar's] job is to keep his school, his madrasa school, open so they can train the next generation of Aztec revolutionaries. Again, I want to make sure that we emphasize this: This school should close."

The lawsuit also quotes McIntyre as allegedly saying: "Aztecs butchered and ate Spanish invaders. I wonder if they're teaching that at ASDP."

KABC would neither confirm nor deny whether McIntyre made those statements.

As a result of McIntyre's comments, the school has had to hire security guards, adding tens of thousands of dollars to its operating costs, Aguilar said.

The lawsuit follows the firing of radio host Don Imus last week over a racist and sexist remark, which set off a large-scale debate over whether some talk-show hosts go too far.

"Shock jocks" are not new, said Marty Kaplan of USC's Annenberg School for Communication. "The more they could make your jaw drop ... the more their ratings went up -- it has since become a standard genre."

tami.abdollah@latimes.com

howard.blume@latimes.com

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