Riley’s Farm Caught in a War with the Claremont School District

Any student who has been a part of CUSD since elementary school would be able to recollect the epitome of CUSD elementary school field trips: Riley’s Farm. In historical Oak Glen, California, visits to Riley’s Farm would entail a near hour-long bus ride buzzing with excited fifth graders and adult chaperones hoping their elementary schoolers learn more about American history and less about the pie in Riley’s Farm bakery. Upon arrival, they would take to activities reminiscent of the revolutionary war, including battle simulations, eating a soldier’s ration for lunch (although bakery purchases are encouraged), and more. However, fifth graders in CUSD will no longer be taking Riley’s Farm field trips, because as of this year, CUSD is halting all elementary school trips to the attraction, and being sued for over $10 million as a result.

The entire decision to put an end to Riley’s Farm field trips started when elementary school parents noticed tweets made on part business owner, James Patrick Riley’s personal twitter account, regarding his ultra-conservative political views on white supremacy, terrorism, sexism, among other topics. Parents requested their children be excused from Riley’s Farm field trips. In response, the district made the decision to drop them altogether.

“Parents objected to posts in which Mr. Riley made misogynistic references to a woman’s ‘bosoms,’ compared the Black Lives Matter movement to the ISIS terrorist organization and made light of ‘white supremacy,’”Riverside District Court said.

The collective refusal of CUSD alongside other nearby districts to no longer demonstrate support for Riley’s Farm has caused notable frustration for Riley, who made the decision to file a lawsuit against CUSD (which is not discussing settlements as the other districts are) in federal court. He and his attorney, Thomas J. Eastmond, are attempting to sue on the grounds of Riley’s constitutionally protected speech. Blacklisting Riley’s Farm, they are arguing, is unconstitutional and violates first amendment rights. This was in reference to the fact that Riley’s controversial political opinions were only published on his personal Twitter account, and technically only “sharply worded and passionate” statements.

The lawsuit goes further, however, and is requesting $125,000 for damage to Riley’s reputation, $800,000 for mental and emotional distress, and nearly $10 million for future revenue lost. These charges, in part, were exacerbated by CUSD joining other school districts in the boycotting of Riley’s Farm. Perhaps justified by the legal sensitivity surrounding the situation, CUSD Superintendent Elsasser, nor anyone on behalf of CUSD, will comment on the matter thus far. CUSD may have to rethink their fifth-grade revolutionary war curriculum.