Sánchez draws challenger

John Ruch

Jamaica Plain activist Jeffrey Herman is considering a run against state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez this fall, the Gazette has learned.

Herman, a teacher and Chestnut Avenue resident, was in the news four years ago for suing the former headmaster of Jamaica Plain’s English High School for alleging violating his First Amendment free speech rights.

Herman did not return a Gazette phone call for this article. He pulled nomination papers as either a Democrat or an independent candidate for the 15th Suffolk District House seat, according to the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s elections office.

“It’s not my seat. It’s the people’s seat, and I’ll work hard to keep it,” said Sánchez, a resident of JP’s Moss Hill who has held the 15th Suffolk District House seat since 2003. Sánchez said that Herman “shows up at my office hours,” but that he does not know Herman well.

Herman’s lawsuit came after he had spoken against English High’s military programs at a 2006 Boston City Council hearing and allegedly faced retribution from Headmaster Jose Duarte. The American Civil Liberties Union-backed suit was settled by Duarte and Boston Public Schools in 2007 for $15,000 with no admission of wrongdoing.

In a separate 2006 incident, Herman was allegedly assaulted and bullied by a group of English High students outside the school while circulating a petition calling for Duarte’s firing. Herman fled by driving through a human wall of teenagers who surrounded his car as Duarte looked on, as the Gazette reported at the time. Dueling police reports were filed in the incident, but no one was charged with any crime.

In 2001, Herman was among the vocal supporters of flying a United Nations flag at Jamaica Pond Park. The flag came down after heated controversy. He also has been involved in anti-war activism and the 2005 V-Day Boston campaign to end violence against women.

“I focus on what I’m doing for the community and with the community,” Sánchez said when asked about his challenger. “I don’t take this job for granted.”

No one is yet officially on the ballot. More candidates could emerge through the beginning of May. The primary election will be held Sept. 14 and the final election on Nov. 2.

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