Ocean View School District, citing 'danger,' sought restraining order against critic; judge says no

The Ocean View School District issued a statement Wednesday explaining why it requested a restraining order recently against a vocal critic of board President Gina Clayton-Tarvin.

The Huntington Beach-based district filed the request April 3 in Orange County Superior Court against Raymond Herrera, a Victorville activist known for his opposition to illegal immigration.

Clayton-Tarvin cited two videos posted on Herrera’s Facebook page and what she described as threatening comments from his followers as reasons for feeling “fear and anxiety that Mr. Herrera poses a real and objective danger” to her well-being.

However, Superior Court Judge Craig Griffin, citing free-speech concerns, denied the request for a temporary restraining order April 3.

“Contact with persons to be protected has been limited to open public meetings, and [the] court is not inclined to issue prior restraint on speech, particularly regarding public officials at public meetings,” Griffin wrote.

Ocean View Supt. Carol Hansen said the district didn’t challenge the ruling and that Wednesday’s statement was released to update the community on what happened.

In a news release, the district said it is “obligated to take cautionary measures, which may include seeking restraining orders on behalf of its employees and officials, upon being made aware of a threat of violence that could potentially endanger members of the OVSD community.”

The district would again pursue legal relief if it deems it necessary to protect personnel but would not infringe on free-speech protections, Clayton-Tarvin said.

Herrera, a fixture at city council and school board meetings throughout the region, often uses his cellphone to livestream his public comments to officials on Facebook. His posts regularly garner comments critical of authority.

Huntington Beach police spokeswoman Jennifer Marlatt said her department hasn’t taken any action since the restraining order request was denied.

“Officers have attended meetings in the past where there was anticipation of conflict,” Marlatt said. “And officers will continue to attend any future board meetings if there are any anticipated problems or foreseeable issues that can be avoided with police presence.”

Ocean View board member Norm Westwell asked for detailed information regarding legal action taken against Herrera, an issue discussed during a closed session April 25.

At the time, Clayton-Tarvin and Hansen said they would provide information when it was ready at a later date.

Shortly afterward, Herrera and a few of his supporters criticized Clayton-Tarvin and the board.

In a video shared on his Facebook page a few days after the board meeting, Herrera said he had just learned about the legal action against him.

“I’m astounded,” Herrera said in the video. “Basically, it’s a complete surprise to me and all of America, because it’s going to set a precedent for people [who] will not be able to address and seek political redress about politics.”

Herrera said Wednesday that he will address the district at another board meeting and respond through “legal channels in the near future in their attempt to violate First Amendment rights.”

Priscella.Vega@latimes.com

Twitter: @vegapriscella

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