A photo of the sign in front of the Temecula Valley Unified School District administration building. (Source: Temecula Valley Unified School District)

The Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Education is facing yet another lawsuit, this time in response to the board’s policies regarding disruptive behavior at meetings.

The lawsuit, filed late last month by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the First Amendment Coalition on behalf of Temecula residents Upneet Dhaliwal and Julie Geary, alleges that the board and the school district violated the First Amendment and that Board President Joseph Komrosky violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments as well as the Brown Act.

“The Temecula School Board president, Mr. Komrosky, has exceeded his authority, infringing upon the freedoms and constitutional rights bestowed upon us,” Geary said in a statement to The Record. “His actions include stifling public voices, enacting unconstitutional policies, and fostering a hostile atmosphere in school board meetings.”

The lawsuit alleges that the board, as a whole, as well as the school district violated the First Amendment by adopting and enforcing “a set of unconstitutionally vague and overbroad regulations that govern purportedly ‘disruptive’ conduct at board meetings,” that allow Komrosky to use a soccer-inspired card system to remove members of the public from the meeting.

“I don’t like the whole idea of treating people with cards like you’re at a soccer game,” Board Member Steve Schwartz said. “I don’t believe it calms anything down, I think it incites people more when you wave a card in their face.”

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Schwartz, who said he knows Geary, said he watched the video of the meeting where she was made to leave, and said he didn’t see her actions at the meeting as disruptive.

“She made a comment in a calm voice,” he said. “She didn’t scream or yell or say anything offensive, and I think there are better ways of dealing with people than throwing them out of meetings.”

According to the lawsuit, Geary sent a letter to the board after she was removed from the July 18 and Aug. 23 meetings informing the board that it had violated the First Amendment and the Brown Act and demanded that the board provide an “unconditional commitment to cease, desist from, and not repeat the violations described in the letter,” or risk legal action.

And while Komrosky did respond to that letter with an “unconditional commitment,” the lawsuit alleges that the ongoing use of the card system and enforcement of the board’s revised regulations on disruptive behavior violated that commitment.

“I find it disheartening that certain members of the community choose to consistently engage in a hostile agenda centered on lawfare and victimhood,” Board Clerk Jen Wiersma said in a statement to The Record. “In challenging circumstances, I’ve watched Dr. Komrosky strive to honor an individual’s right to speak in the boardroom while also upholding important parameters of decorum and decency.”

Schwartz said the board has not yet discussed the lawsuit in closed session, but said that he, as an individual board member, did not see himself being all that involved with the suit.

The Record reached out to all members of the board, but neither Komrosky nor Board Member Allison Barclay responded prior to publication.

The next meeting of the Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Education is set for Jan. 16.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.