“They need to stop throwing innocent children under the bus,” said the boy’s attorney.
An eighth-grade student in La Jolla, California, attended a high school football game in his free time on Oct. 13. In an effort to emulate his sports heroes, he donned warrior paint on his cheeks, temples, and chin. According to the principal of his school, this common practice amounted to a “hate incident” — at least when executed by this particular child.
The principal reportedly banned the 13-year-old from attending San Diego Unified School District sporting events for the remainder of the year and suspended him from school for two days, accusing him of hatred with “intent to harm.”
In an effort to clear the boy’s name, the Ameduri family is now suing Muirlands Middle School Principal Jeffrey Luna and Lamont Jackson, the superintendent of the SDUSD who denied the boy’s suspension appeal. The boy’s family has demanded a jury trial.
Painting a child as a villain
Blaze News previously reported that the boy, referred to as J.A. in court documents, donned the face paint for a game between La Jolla High School and Morse High School. The Center for American Liberty indicated the boy wasn’t alone: “Several other students put eye black in various designs on their faces.”
According to the lawsuit, the boy’s intent “in having his friend paint Warrior eye black on his face was to show spirit for the football team along with the many other fans in attendance. He was not familiar with the concept of ‘blackface’ at the time he put on the Warrior eye black. He had no intent to mimic or mock anyone when he donned the Warrior eye black, nor did he engage in any behavior that could be characterized as mimicking or mocking Black people while wearing it.”
⚖️ LAWSUIT FILED: California middle schooler is suing the school officials who accused him of wearing “blackface” after he wore eye black to a football game. pic.twitter.com/OrZLk5ToXH— Center for American Liberty (@Liberty_Ctr) January 17, 2024
The game was not sponsored or affiliated with J.A.’s school. Even if it was, the lawsuit further noted that the SDUSD has not rules or policies barring fans from wearing eye black or face paint at games.
“It was a normal day, everything was normal. No one said anything. It was a normal football game and La Jolla won,” the boy’s father, Daniel Ameduri, told “Fox & Friends” Wednesday. “I used to go to a lot of football games when I lived in Texas, and I used to play football and sometimes we put that on if one of the kids brought it.”
“Then the following Monday, Tuesday, nothing,” continued Ameduri. “Wednesday afternoon the principal called J.A. into the office, and the next morning my wife and I showed up and he said, ‘He did blackface,’ and he was suspended for two days and was gonna be banned from sports.”
The suspension notice said the boy “painted his face black at a football game” and categorized it as a “Hate Incident” with the “intent to harm.”
Ameduri recalled having showed the principal, Jeffrey Luna, a photograph of his boy in an effort to “vindicate” his son, but that did not sway Luna, who allegedly responded, “No, that’s blackface.”
LAWSUIT FILED🚨 A California middle schooler was suspended and accused of ‘Blackface’ after wearing athletic eye black at a school football game.— Dhillon Law Group (@dhillonlaw) January 17, 2024
DLG Counsel @Karin_Sweigart joins @foxandfriends to explain the lawsuit: pic.twitter.com/JxYxbtv7gi
Clearing his name
The family filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California Tuesday, accusing Luna and SDUSD superintendent Jackson of violating J.A.’s First Amendment rights, his right of due process, and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The complaint noted that J.A. was within his constitutional rights when wearing eye black “to show spirit” at the game — constitutional rights students “do not shed … at the schoolhouse gate.”
By punishing J.A. “for his protected speech, Principal Luna and the SDUSD Office of Placement and Appeals exhibited oppression, malice, gross negligence, willful or wanton misconduct, and/or a reckless disregard for J.A.’s civil right,” said the lawsuit.
Furthermore, by suspending J.A. alone for wearing the “warrior eye black,” the complaint suggests Luna and other defendants “intentionally treated J.A. differently from other similarly situated football fans at the Game … among them Muirlands students, who were at the Game wearing eye black and face paint as their situations were directly comparable in all material respects.”
“J.A. was irrationally singled out for punishment,” according to the complaint.
The family wants J.A.’s sporting-event ban lifted; his disciplinary record pertaining to the incident expunged; a declaration on the part of the principal and superintendent that the actions taken against the boy violated his constitutional rights; and damages, in an amount to be determined at trial.
Karin Sweigart, a First Amendment specialist at the Dhillon Law Group who is representing J.A., told KFMB-TV why the success of the suit is critical: “[J.A.] might have to not only have short-term ramifications; he would have to have this on his student records when he’s applying for high schools. But also, potentially, this could come up with colleges with future job applications.”
Sweigart wrote on X,”Cheering at a football game is not blackface, and school administrators saying an innocent child committed an act of ‘hate violence’ with no investigation and no evidence to support the claim is despicable.”
“As an attorney, I have been dealing with in an alarming number of situations clients calling me with similar things. And these school districts need to stop. They need to stop throwing innocent children under the bus,” added Sweigart.
Late last year, liberal sports blog Deadspin vilified a 9-year-old Native American boy who turned up at a Kansas City Chiefs game with his face painted in the colors of his favorite team, accusing him of racial hatred.