In response to the public reprimand of a Fullerton Union High School student Kearian Giertz following a speech in which he advocated marriage rights for same-sex couples, as well as a subsequent statement by Fullerton Union School Superintendent George Giokaris, James Gilliam, director of the Seth Walsh Student Rights Project of the ACLU of Southern California, issued the following statement:
“The ACLU of Southern California is troubled not just by the fact that a student was publicly reprimanded by an assistant principal for expressing his constitutional right to free speech – and the desire of most people, gay or straight, to meet a partner with whom to spend the rest of one’s life – but by the response of Superintendant George Giokaris. While Giokaris is correct that the student’s answer violated no school rules, his contention that the matter should have been addressed privately is as incorrect as the original, public response. The student not only did not violate any school rules, but was protected by the First Amendment. His bravery is to be commended, not punished.”
Giertz was publically reprimanded by Vice Principal Joe Abell following a question asked him during the high school’s “Mr. Fullerton” competition. The question asked contestants where they saw themselves in 10 years. Giertz answered “Hopefully, 10 years from now gay marriage will be legal in California.” Abell later apologized to Giertz, and Giokaris issued a statement saying the student had done nothing wrong, but said that the matter should have been dealt with privately.