Constitution-Loving Student Wins ‘Free Speech Zone’ Fight on Campus
A student at Pierce College in southern California leveled a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Community College District two years ago, after Pierce officials attempted to relegate his political speech to “free speech zones.”
Last week, he finally won.
The suit filed by student Kevin Shaw in November 2016 was finally settled on Wednesday when the Los Angeles Community College District agreed revoke its unconstitutional policy on all campuses, Campus Reform reported.
Shaw’s dispute began when he was found passing out Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution 2016 on campus in November 2016.
Campus officials notified Shaw that he would need to apply for a permit to use one of the “free speech zones” if he wished to continue his activities, and if he didn’t comply, he would be asked to leave campus.
The college’s actions prompted Shaw to sue the school, with the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, for violating his First Amendment rights.
“More than two years ago, administrators wrongly told Kevin he was not allowed to hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution in the center of his public college campus,” FIRE Director of Litigation Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon said in a statement.
“He’s been standing up for his First Amendment rights every day since, and in the process has vindicated the rights of every student in the district,” Beck-Coon concluded.
VICTORY: The speech rights of 150,000 students will be restored as Los Angeles Community College District settles a lawsuit and agrees to abandon Pierce College’s tiny free speech zone. 1/3https://t.co/q4uXwwmqCl pic.twitter.com/fzUWZWETQS
— FIRE (@TheFIREorg) December 13, 2018
FIRE has been a party to numerous lawsuits standing up for students’ rights against liberal college adminsitrators.
“Hopefully, this settlement will serve as a reminder to both students and their colleges that the free and open exchange of ideas on campus is a precious commodity to be celebrated rather than feared or restricted,” said Arthur Willner, a partner at Leader Berkon Colao & Silverstein and co-counsel with FIRE in the case.
The Department of Justice issued a “statement of interest” in Shaw’s suit against the school, stating:
“The campus of a public university, at least for its students, posses many of the characteristics of a public forum,” the DOJ’s filing read.
“Thus, public universities have an obligation to justify (their) discriminations and exclusions under applicable constitutional norms.”
According to Shaw, even though this case took two years to settle, he considers it to be a win.
“Though it was not without its difficulties, this experience has left me optimistic about the guiding principles of my country,” Shaw said, according to FIRE.
“Folks of all political dispositions rallied behind this case to declare in no uncertain terms: Freedom of speech is essential to the educational process.”
In a statement to Campus Reform, the student said that, “I wish it hadn’t taken two years for my school to conclude I had a right to free expression.”
“All the same, I’m thankful to know future students won’t have to worry about being harassed for expressing political opinions.”
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