BRAWLEY – â€œIâ€™m shocked and surprised,â€ said Brooks Hamby in response to the 10 page letter that Brawley Union High School (BUHS) sent him.
The letter states that BUHS has the right to censor all speeches.
The Stanford bound graduate from BUHS was denied 3 times approval of his salutatorian speech at commencement ceremonies on June 12, 2014.
â€œWe thought at this point that we were going to put this behind us,â€ said Hamby. â€œIâ€™m looking forward to school. I wasnâ€™t expecting BUHS to do anything. The school board hired attorneys until 2017 at their closed session meeting. This team of attorneys sent a 10 page letter to me. My attorney, Jeremy Dys with the Liberty Institute, said it cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 in taxpayer funds.â€
The school was asked to have a meeting with Hamby and his attorney. They requested that the school give a public apology that stated religious discrimination will not happen in the future.
The school responded by denying the request to meet with Hamby and have hired attorneys to fight him.
â€œItâ€™s pretty disappointing,â€ said Hamby. â€œWe didnâ€™t realize they were gearing up for this, since there has been so much support locally and nationally. I went in to get my transcript and diploma with no problem.â€
Liberty Institute is reviewing the letter from the schoolâ€™s attorneys.
â€œItâ€™s been a good learning experience for me,â€ said Hamby. â€œHopefully, it will inspire someone else to realize that itâ€™s OK to stand up for their religious freedoms and speak openly about their faith and not fear a school district, a school, or a school administrator. The message the school wants to give is that it is illegal. I find that unfortunate.â€
Hambyâ€™s attorney, Jeremy Dys with the Liberty Institute, wants to uphold the First Amendment in this case. â€œAll options are on the table,â€ said Dys. â€œWe are reviewing this carefully. It appears that the school does not want to put this behind them. They have made a significant investment on an invitation to litigation. If itâ€™s litigation they would like to see here so we can exonerate Brooks for his civil rights, thatâ€™s an invitation we might simply accept.â€
â€œThe firm that was retained in San Diego until 2017 saw a great opportunity to make a significant amount of money and this is where they are at now,â€ said Dys. â€œAll we were looking for was an opportunity to meet with them and get an apology. That would have cost them zero dollars. Instead, they have chosen to spend lots of money to lecture Brooks. Apparently, they intend to use Brooks as a symbol of their own success, rather than an award that he himself earned. Thatâ€™s just disturbing.”
“Itâ€™s shocking that the administration would want to spend that much money in potential litigation,” said Dys. Â “This could cost taxpayers up to a seven figure sum. We have no problem doing that if thatâ€™s what they want to do. It would be best if they would come out and apologize to Brooks for censoring his First Amendment rights. The real winner here so far is the law firm out of San Diego. They are walking away with a lot of money. Brooks, in the meantime, is suffering with this black cloud over his graduation. This all goes to show what the school feels about the First Amendment.â€
The YouTube video of Hambyâ€™s salutatorian speech posted by The Desert Review has gone viral with over 720,000 views.