Temecula School Board Sued for First Amendment and Brown Act Violations

Special to the Vanguard

Los Angeles, CA – On Thursday, Temecula, Calif., residents Upneet Dhaliwal and Julie Geary sued the Temecula Valley Unified School District, its Board of Trustees, and its president, Joseph Komrosky, for violating their rights under the First Amendment and California law by ejecting them from school board meetings without cause. The ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the First Amendment Coalition represent Dhaliwal and Geary.

Since May 2023, Komrosky has unlawfully removed school board meeting attendees for speech protected by the First Amendment, such as calling a board member a “homophobe” for objecting to a curriculum that mentioned Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, and who was assassinated while in office.

Komrosky has demonstrated a consistent pattern of violating the First Amendment and the Ralph M. Brown Act, California’s open meetings law, which allows removal of members of the public only if they are “engaging in behavior during a meeting of a legislative body that actually disrupts, disturbs, impedes, or renders infeasible the orderly conduct of the meeting,” and typically only after a warning and opportunity to stop the alleged disruption.

Both Dhaliwal and Geary were ejected from school board meetings for objecting to Komrosky’s free speech violations. Neither of them engaged in any conduct that actually disrupted the meeting, as the First Amendment requires before a person may be removed.

”Komrosky’s repeated violations of the First Amendment are a direct assault on free speech as the cornerstone of our democracy,” said David Loy, legal director of the First Amendment Coalition.

The board adopted new meeting conduct policies on August 9, 2023 that further enable Komrosky to continue violating the First Amendment. According to today’s lawsuit, the new policy deems “various forms of speech and expressive conduct inherently disruptive regardless of whether they actually disrupt or impede a Board meeting, and they grant Mr. Komrosky or his designee the authority to expel members of the public for speech and conduct that does not actually disrupt the meeting.”

“Californians have the right to attend public meetings concerning policies that impact their families, especially their child’s education,” said Jonathan Markovitz, Free Expression and Access to Government staff attorney at the ACLU SoCal. “TVUSD Board President Komrosky has consistently violated that right by inappropriately expelling people from school board meetings.”

The lawsuit asks the court to declare that actions by the Board and Komrosky violate the First Amendment and the California Constitution, and to prevent the Board and Komrosky from continuing to engage in constitutional and Brown Act violations by enforcing these policies.

Read the lawsuit here

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2 Comments

  1. Walter Shwe

    Republicans claim to support our Constitution, but the actual evidence proves otherwise. This lawsuit represents an early Christmas gift for everyone that truly believes in democracy and the rule of law.

    1. David Greenwald

      I think one of the key points is that the right has tried to seize the mantel of free speech, but it’s a selective mantel as best as the long discussion with Keith showed last week.

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