Student Sues College Over Free Speech Zone

Dec 13, 2015 by

Free speech allowed at public school on 0.26 percent of campus with TWO DAYS notice

A freshman at a public community college in Arizona has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a tiny, restrictive campus free-speech zone.

The student is Brittany Mirelez, reports The Daily Signal.

Mirelez attends Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix, Ariz.

In October, Paradise Valley official Mike Ho, the director of student life, booted Mirelez from the school’s small campus zone for political speech because she had failed to seek administrative permission to use the space.

Mirelez had placed a temporary table in the space and was attempting to promote Young Americans for Liberty, a limited-government-focused group she is starting at the community college.

She filmed her altercation with Ho. Campus Reform has the video.

Ho explained to Mirelez and a Young Americans for Liberty field representative — also at the makeshift table — that the Maricopa County Community College District has a two-year-old policy mandating free speech zones on its 10 campuses.

“The public has the right to use this space within a two-day notification period,” Ho explained.

The Paradise Valley bureaucrat then started a big argument with Mirelez about how the school can limit her right to free expression and about how she must fill out the proper form.

The Paradise Valley speech-zone policy allows students who obtain permission two days in advance — using the correct form — to speak freely on campus from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a small portion of walkway which compromises less than 0.26 percent of the public school campus, according to The Daily Signal.

Mirelez maintains that another official in the Paradise Valley bureaucracy had granted her permission to use the modest free-speech zone on the public campus.

Eventually, Mirelez and the Young Americans for Liberty representative abandoned their table.

The lawsuit, filed in December, asserts that Paradise Valley Community College officials “severely limited” Mirelez’s right to “constitutionally-protected expression on campus” and caused “the fear of arrest or punishment.”

You can see the full federal complaint here.

“Although PVCC encourages free discourse and debate on campus, it uses its Guidelines for Public Expression on Campus (the ‘Policy’) to restrict student speech to one designated speech zone,” the suit explains. “PVCC’s Policy prohibits students from speaking outside of the Speech Zone, including on public sidewalks, walkways, lawns, and other outdoor areas.”

The lawsuit notes that the community college is a public institution which receives taxpayer funds. It observes that “the First Amendment rights of free speech and press extend to campuses of state colleges.”

Mirelez’s lawsuit seeks attorneys’ fees but does not seek specific money damages. Her primary demand is that Paradise Valley Community College end its restrictive “speech zone” policy.

“A lot of students have told me it’s weird that they only see us in one spot, that they would like to see us around campus more,” Mirelez told The Daily Signal.

“You don’t wake up and say I kind of want to sue my school to get rid of something,” the freshman also said. “But it’s gotta happen.”

Free-speech restrictions on America’s public college campuses are frequently the subject of federal and state litigation. College administrators frequently lose or quietly settle the lawsuits.

In September, for example, officials at Dixie State University in Utah coughed up $50,000 in damages and attorney’s fees for banning libertarian students from distributing fliers which variously featured images of Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Che Guevara. The public school bureaucrats censored the fliers because, they said, the fliers “disparaged” the two U.S. presidents and the murderous communist revolutionary.

In January 2015, a federal judge in Chicago ordered officials at Waubonsee Community College to stop ignoring the First Amendment and allow a stridently anti-gay group to distribute leaflets on campus. Administration officials had reasoned that opponents of homosexuality could not speak on the public campus because it might lead to “unlawful hostility.” The judge called this argument grossly unconstitutional.

 

Source: Student Sues College Over Free Speech Zone | The Daily Caller

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