The San Ramon Valley Unified School District has reached a $665,000 settlement with a former student body president who was disciplined for participating in a James Bond parody video on the eve of a school election, the students’ lawyers announced today.
Nathaniel Yu, now 20, and the district reached the settlement in February. On Tuesday, the two sides filed a joint request asking U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney of San Francisco to dismiss the civil rights lawsuit Yu filed in 2017.
The settlement also provides that the district will post an apology on its website by April 14.
Yu was 17 and a junior at San Ramon Valley High School in Danville when he ran for the office of Associated Student Body president. Three days before the election began, he and four friends created a parody video that featured Yu as a James Bond-type hero who rescues a person from being forced by members of an extremist group to participate in a video game competition.
The video was posted on a student editor’s personal YouTube webpage on Feb. 6, the day before voting began, but was taken down after 12 hours and 30 views, according to the settlement document.
School officials then told Yu the video might violate a rule against inappropriate campaign material, according to the document. The school disqualified him from the election, although he received the most votes.
Three months later, the district reversed the decision and reinstated Yu as student body president for his senior year.
The incident became subject to false rumors that the video disparaged and discriminated against Muslim Americans, according to the settlement. The document states, however, that:
“(The district) never perceived the contents of the parody as rising to the level of ‘hate speech,’ harassment or discrimination against anyone.”
The district’s public apology to Yu expresses “our acknowledgment and apologies for the negative effects, disruption and emotional distress that you and your family endured as a result of the reaction by district employees and community members to the James Bond parody video created in February 2017.”
“We further believe that the video did not bully, harass, discriminate against, or threaten anyone.”
The letter also thanks Yu for his perseverance and his service as student body president.
Yu said in a statement:
“As a child of immigrants, I am constantly reminded that we cannot take our civil rights for granted. We must continue our fight to preserve these rights at all costs.”
Yu is now a student at the University of San Francisco, according to April Arias, a spokeswoman for his attorneys.
The settlement provides that both sides will pay their own lawyers’ fees. When asked about legal fees, Yu family attorney James McFall stated:
“While the amount of the settlement is a matter of public record, what the family plans to do with the money is something they choose to keep private.”