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Lawsuit settled over political message on La Jolla High benches

February 17, 2012 | 10:04 am

  A free speech lawsuit over benches at La Jolla High School painted with the words "Freedom For Iran" has been settled.

The litigation came after a senior painted the message in February 2011. Traditionally, seniors paint messages on the school benches in their final year.

The school's principal ordered workers to paint over the political message, but students repainted it a day later. That prompted another whitewashing, and a threat from the principal to remove the benches permanently.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union sued, citing violations of free speech. One year later, the long-awaited settlement is now final, Fox5 in San Diego reported Friday.

"The whole point is schools are supposed to be our laboratories of democracy," said David Loy from the ACLU. "The schools are supposed to respect people's opinions and free speech."

As part of the settlement, the San Diego Unified School District is not admitting any wrongdoing, but it will rewrite its student speech policy.

Students also no longer have to get permission to put messages on the benches. School officials said they were pleased with the settlement, adding most of the changes have already been implemented.

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-- John Langeler, Fox5 San Diego

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