After a two-year battle, the Los Angeles Community College District has agreed to abolish a policy that limited student expression to “free speech zones,” available only through application.
Pierce College student Kevin Shaw was handing out Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution in November 2016 when an administrator told him that he would have to confine his activity to the school’s “free speech zone.” The school told Shaw that he would have to apply for access to the 616-square foot zone and that his failure to comply would result in his removal from campus.
After the incident, Shaw sued the school for violating his First Amendment rights with the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The Department of Justice then filed a statement in support of his case.
Pierce College filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in January 2018 but a California district court ultimately rejected the school’s assertion that the public campus was a “non-public forum.”
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Community College District agreed to settle the lawsuit, as well as to revoke the unconstitutional policy that recognized all campuses within the district as “non-public forums,” effectively removing free speech restrictions placed on 150,000 students, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
"I wish it hadn’t taken two years for my school to conclude I had a right to free expression,” Shaw told Campus Reform.
"All the same, I’m thankful to know future students won’t have to worry about being harassed for expressing political opinions.”
“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."