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Judge sues Carlsbad school district for defamation

CARLSBAD – A state district judge has filed a defamation lawsuit against a local school board and several employees, claiming scurrilous and malicious false statements – including that she was part of a “white power movement” – were made about the judge and no school district official repudiated them, even though it was their duty to do so.

Judge Lisa Riley

Fifth Judicial District Judge Lisa Riley on Thursday filed the suit against the Carlsbad Municipal School Board, its superintendent, a principal, another school employee and the treasurer of the LULAC national organization.

The conflict stems from a demonstration organized on school grounds by the plaintiff Lisa Riley’s son Will Riley in support of gun rights following demonstrations at schools around the country calling for firearm restrictions after the February school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The complaint was in response to allegations made by League of United Latin American Citizens Treasurer Paul Martinez that Riley called Carlsbad High School Principal Adam Amador a “dumb Mexican” during a phone call.

It also said district employee Liza Carrasco told a mostly Hispanic crowd during a local concert that Riley was part of a “white power movement.”

“Plaintiffs made no such comments and these allegations are not only untrue but they are scurrilous, vicious, mean-spirited, defamatory and totally made up by Defendant Amador and ratified and promulgated by Paul ‘Pablo’ Martinez,” the suit said.

The suit also accused Carlsbad Municipal Schools Superintendent Gregory Rodriguez and members of the Carlsbad Municipal School Board for inaction in addressing Riley’s concerns.

“The claim of racism and defamation against the plaintiff … is so serious, and severe … and can cause race relations problems in this community,” according to the complaint. “Because of the seriousness of the comments, Defendants, School Board Members, have an absolute duty to confront this issue, which they completely and totally failed to do …”

In the days leading up to the May 2 walkout – known as Stand for the Second – at Carlsbad High School, Riley alleged Amador attempted to prevent the demonstration by intimidating her son and threatening the then-Carlsbad High senior with suspension.

“As a result of Mr. Amador’s opposition to Will Riley’s position and standing up for his position, he apparently alienated Mr. Amador,” the complaint said.

According to the lawsuit:

On the day of Will Riley’s 16-minute walkout, scheduled at the end of the school day, Riley spoke with Amador via phone. During that conversation, Amador demanded Riley tell him who informed her of his attempted disruption of the event.

When Riley refused, the complaint alleged Amador refused to talk to her and “slammed down” the phone.

Then, on Aug. 20, Riley spoke before the school board asking for a change in the district’s discrimination policy to include “viewpoint” discrimination, which she alleged the district was guilty of against her son. No response from district officials was made at that time.

In the following weeks, Rodriguez refused to speak with Riley about the matter, citing a “personnel issue.”

The complaint also said the school board was aware of the issue, and received complaints from Riley, but took no action.

“She has gotten absolutely no response from defendant Rodriguez about any complaint she had about her son,” the complaint said. “And no action was taken.”

On Sept. 18, Riley filed two additional complaints, claiming Rodriguez was “totally unresponsive” to her concerns.

Before a special meeting held by the School Board on Sept. 26, when board members went into a closed-door session to discuss “the pending complaints,” a letter sent to the school board and Current-Argus in September by LULAC alleged Riley called Amador a “dumb” Mexican during the May 2 phone call, according to the suit.

LULAC’s Martinez told the Current-Argus the accusation came “directly” from Amador.

Carlsbad School Board President David Shoup said in an interview the board was taking the concerns “seriously,” following the meeting, but he could not comment further.

“I just want to make sure the public knows that we take all concerns from the community and parents seriously,” Shoup said.

The suit claims that days before the meeting, on Sept. 22, school district employee Carrasco appeared at a benefit featuring local musicians, where she rallied support for Amador and the district, and accused Riley of a “racial vendetta.”

The school board was also aware of Carrasco’s comments, the complaint said, and did nothing.

Carlsbad Municipal School officials said they could not comment on pending litigation.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

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