Northern California Record

Saturday, October 19, 2019

California field trip destination owner files lawsuit after inappropriate social media posts result in cancellation of clientele

By Carrie Bradon | Dec 22, 2018

RIVERSIDE — A once-popular field trip destination in California is now the topic of a lawsuit with local schools, after the owner of the destination made numerous politically incorrect posts to social media. 

Riley's Farm, in Oak Glen, lost its field trip clientele earlier this year after making repeated posts to social media that were misogynistic and racist, such as likening the Black Live Matter movement to ISIS, according to The Mercury News.

In October, James Patrick Riley filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that his First Amendment rights were being violated when schools stopped using his venue as a field trip destination. The field trips were canceled following numerous requests from parents, asking that their children be permitted to not attend field trips to Riley's Farm.

California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse said parents had the right to react freely to Riley's free speech.

"Patrick Riley has the First Amendment right to express his views, and parents have the right to protect their children from being exposed to what most people see as ugly, bigoted comments," Ken Barnes, executive director of CALA, told the Northern California Record. "Free speech is not consequence-free."

According to the lawsuit, Riley's Farm relies heavily upon field trip revenue, which is about $2.1 million per year. Riley is seeking $125,000 in damages to reputation and $800,000 for mental and emotional distress, as well as nearly $10 million for lost revenue in the future.

Regardless of the outcome, Barnes said that the settlement was unlikely to bring about any meaningful change.

"Questionable lawsuits filed against school districts, like the action brought by Mr. Riley, accomplish little more than to reduce the already limited resources available to our children," Barnes said.

The lawsuit names Claremont Unified School District, as well as the board members, superintendent and two principals. In addition to Claremont, several other school districts have halted their field trips to Riley's.

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U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Eastern Division