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Eagle Rock -- A high school student is part of a federal lawsuit against the school district for hindering her efforts to present information about alternatives to dairy milk at Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High School.
Marielle Williamson, head of the school's Animal Awareness Club, attempted to share information regarding the health concerns of drinking cow's milk, the limited access to plant-based milk products at schools, and other issues.
The 17-year-old's plans, however, were derailed when the principal required her to include material supporting cow's milk at an information table outside the cafeteria.
"The posters that I was supposed to show were contrary to my message," said Williamson, who lives in Silver Lake.
The advocacy group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed the lawsuit last week on Williamson's behalf and against L.A. Unified, district administrators and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It seeks to protect her "First Amendment right to peacefully engage in student speech that exposes the harms caused by consuming dairy products," according to the filing.
The lawsuit challenges federal rules prohibiting those affiliated with a school district from impacting the marketing or sale of cow's milk if a campus participates in the National School Lunch Program, said Deborah Press of the Physicians Committee.
Press said the lawsuit seeks an injunction against enforcement of the rule, which is "overly broad and vague," and nominal damages of $1 from LAUSD.
L.A. Unified said it doesn't comment on ongoing legal matters. But a district statement said it "takes pride in empowering students to amplify their voice" and supports students with "healthy alternatives for those who have specific dietary requests and requirements."
The lawsuit reflects Williamson's values. She became a vegan even though it meant giving up some of her mother's meals that included dairy and meat. "What do I value more? These foods or the life of animals?" she said in an interview.
The high school senior won't be around when her case goes to court. Williamson is graduating this year and is headed to Duke University's campus in China. There she will work on her Mandarin skills and major in environmental science and public health before planning to attend law school.
The lawsuit "should be resolved by the time I'm in law school," she said.
Highland Park: L.A. school board member Rocio Rivas will host a Northeast Community Meeting on Tuesday, May 16 at Luther Burbank Middle School about community schools and greening up your campus.
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Monica Rodriguez is a freelance writer. She has more than two decades of experience in daily journalism working for news publications in Pennsylvania and California. She is a product of Boyle Heights and continues to call the community home.
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It’s unfortunate that the school
lunch program’s primary consideration is the health and welfare of big agriculture.
Wow, how inspiring! She is fighting the government and the USDA, who subsidize animal products. My daughter is not offered an alternative at her high school either. It is astounding that they require false info about how milk is good for you, especially when the great majority of the district are POCs, who are mostly lactose intolerant. And then there are so many others who want the healthier choice for their body and environment as well as those who care about animal welfare. At least they do offer numerous vegan and vegetarian meals, a great start, so perhaps there is hope? I really hope this creates change and awareness on the subject, especially in a school setting, where they really need to teach the truth, not the falsehoods perpetuated by the dairy industry/govt pushing their products on our youth.
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