By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
A day later, in the company of his mother, Jeremy met with principal Savarese, who also mentioned the TV appearance and announced that Jeremy was being suspended for an additional five days. According to the federal suit, no reason was given for the suspension, except that it was “necessary . . . while the matter was ‘under investigation.’” Eventually, when the administrators were forced to put their reasons in writing, they claimed that Jeremy was ousted for “distribution of the flier promoting unlawful assembly/protest.” Of course, these were the very grounds on which Marshall had promised that Jeremy would not be suspended.
The five-day suspension elapsed, and Jeremy was told he was being “transferred” to Taft High School. An appeal of the transfer was denied, and that’s when civil rights attorney Carol Sobel went to federal court. “You have to wonder what’s going on here,” she said. “You’ve got a California Supreme Court decision that is nearly three decades old, protecting students’ free-speech rights. Doesn’t anybody at LAUSD look at the law?”
When Jeremy Meyer returned to school a week ago Thursday, under federal court order, his peers were, he said, “really happy. They felt something good had finally come out of all this.” The majority of teachers, meanwhile, “were bitter. They gave me the cold shoulder.”
The school district’s news release said it would follow the court order, but lamented that the “continued unauthorized dissemination of the publication over the past two months has become an unfortunate distraction to the educational process at this school.”
This is the dissonance, the unbridgeable gap, that The OBJaddressed. If the administration and some of the targeted teachers had tried to read between the lines — if they had let go of their own antipathy toward the suspected authors and, instead, eyed the words carefully — they might have realized a good deal of honesty lay hidden inside the invective.
Instead of forgiveness or understanding, those students merely suspended were forbidden, upon returning to school, from participating in graduation ceremonies, the prom, or any extracurricular activities. And those who received the harshest penalty — Jeremy Meyer and the three other seniors given “opportunity transfers” — had the added burden of figuring out exactly why they were singled out from among dozens of students involved in The OBJcontretemps. Greg Strausberg did no more than hand out a few copies of The OBJafter finding them one afternoon at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. He was ejected. David Belsky, an honors student with a full scholarship to Cornell, wrote one article, criticizing a teacher. He too was removed from the Pali roll book. Mike Burke suffered the same consequences for much the same deeds.
In the words of one parent, “The tragedy here is that a group of very smart kids were trying to be heard. Instead, they were punished.” As the parent leaders at Palisades put it in a letter to Interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines, school officials responded with “an iron fist.”
That letter, which was a plea to Cortines to ease off the prosecutorial zeal, concluded, “Our job as parents and educators is to raise individuals who will make good citizens — individuals who respect one another, who are willing to listen to all points of view, and who make careful, reasoned choices. How will our children get this message in light of the recent actions taken at Palisades Charter High School?” Good question.
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