School district must pay pamphleteer’s legal fees

Thursday, February 26, 1998


LA PUENTE, Calif. (AP) – The Bassett Unified School District must pay $14,000 in legal fees in the case of a high school senior the district tried to keep from graduating after he compared his principal to Adolf Hitler.

Joe Neal was suspended days before his June 1997 graduation from Bassett High School. The suspension came six weeks after he distributed a flier comparing the principal to a string of dictators.

Neal was upset with the way Bassett High School principal Linda Bouman instituted a ninth-grade program, but the district considered the flier a threat.

The American Civil Liberties Union took the case to court and won a temporary restraining order from U.S. Superior Court Judge James Ideman in Los Angeles that allowed Neal to graduate.

The judge said that while he wasn’t condoning Neal’s language, he was clearly exercising his free speech rights. The district said it would not appeal.

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