Court dismisses former college radio host’s lawsuit

CALIFORNIA — A Superior Court in Los Angeles dismissed a former college radio host’s lawsuit, which claimed that his First Amendment rights were violated when school officials fired him for content he aired.

The court ruled Aug. 1 that California’s Leonard Law, which gives students at private colleges some of the same First Amendment protections enjoyed by students at public schools, can only be used by students who are enrolled in school at the time they file a lawsuit.

The court dismissed Jason Antebi’s lawsuit against Occidental College because he filed the suit eight months after he graduated from the institution.

The Leonard Law permits “only enrolled students to seek injunctive and declaratory relief to pursue their First Amendment rights of free speech as students in private postsecondary educational institutions,” according to the decision.

Antebi’s problems with the school began when he was fired from his radio show, “Rant and Rave,” in March 2004 for saying that a member of the student government was a “bearded feminist,” while another was “half man, half vagina.”

He was also found guilty by an on-campus judicial board of sexual harassment in April 2004 for remarks he made on the show.

Antebi’s lawsuit asked for $10 million in compensation. It also asked the college to change its policies so another student in Antebi’s position would not be punished.

A student press advocate said the court’s interpretation of the Leonard Law gives colleges a loophole for censorship.

“Would the California Legislature have even passed the Leonard Law if it thought all a private school would have to do in order to successfully deny student their free speech rights was to expel them?” Greg Lukianoff, director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, wrote in an editorial in The Boston Globe.

Antebi declined to comment on the decision. He said he could not say whether or not he would pursue the lawsuit any further.

by Kim Peterson, SPLC staff writer

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