A School District Severed Ties With an Apple Farmer Turned History Aficionado Over His Controversial Tweets. Now He’s Suing.
James Riley’s Oak Glen Apple farm is a historian’s dream. The entire property has been made to resemble a Colonial-era homestead. Students from all over come for the historical re-enactments: The Revolutionary War Adventure, The Civil War Adventure, The Gold Rush Adventure, and more.
That was, until the tweets.
Recently, a set of controversial social media postings by the tour’s owner surfaced. In them, Riley rails on “black supremacy,” gender nonconformity, and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s claims of Native American Heritage.
Parents complained and the Claremont Unified School District, which had long sent students to the farm for hands-on history lessons, pulled the plug. In a letter to Riley, the district said it would no longer be sending students to the farm, as it has “no obligation to expose children to an individual who engages in these crude and tasteless comments.”
Riley is now suing the school district, claiming a violation of his first Amendment right to free speech and his 14th amendment right to equal protection under the law. His farm is heavily dependent on the educational tours, he argues, and he’s seeking over $10 million in damages.
If that seems like a legal long shot to you, you’re not alone. Pepperdine University Law Professor Barry P. McDonald told the Los Angeles Times that the case is most likely a “loser.”
Riley isn’t giving up. He has warned other districts considering cutting ties that they too will be sued if they do.
Claremont Unified has declined to comment on the suit.