CALIFORNIA – A representative of the Acalanes Union High School District in Lafayette is investigating an Acalanes High student’s complaint that a teacher violated his right to freedom of speech during a recent class election.
According to Jeremy Wolff, who claims leadership teacher Michael McAlister censored his campaign election signs, District Director of Human Resources Frank Acojido began a two-week investigation after meeting with the student on June 3.
McAlister objected to the signs because they "made light of death," Wolff said. The signs read, "Jeremy L. Wolff for junior class vice president because the president won’t die."
"He said the last line was inappropriate and suggested that I cut off the bottom," Wolff explained. "[But] I didn’t want to cut off the bottom because it would make it look really serious and you don’t win high school elections that way."
District Superintendent Jim Negri said the district is unable to comment on the issue.
"[It] would be inappropriate for me to make any comments while we are currently handling a complaint because of the confidentiality issues," Negri said.
Rather than cutting the bottoms off of the signs, Wolff covered up the line "because the president won’t die" and wrote "censored" in its place.
After posting his signs in the school, Wolff said McAlister pulled him from a class and told him he was no longer eligible for the election because his action "was a direct sign of disobedience."
Despite being disqualified from the election, Wolff mounted a write-in campaign, which he said failed when McAlister told students not to count his votes. Wolff said McAlister’s act to prevent his write-in votes from being counted is against school policy.
"According to school rules a write-in candidate is allowed to be in the election," he said.
Wolff appealed, but school administrators said they supported McAlister’s decision.
He presented his case to the school board on June 1. The school board did not reply to his complaint because of a rule stating they can only speak on issues that are on a meeting’s agenda.
Since the school board meeting, Wolff has spoken with the American Civil Liberties Union and hopes to receive an apology from the school district before he begins his junior year at Acalanes High.
"I want to be assured that this won’t happen to anyone again," he explained.
By Mike Hart