A college student in Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against his school, arguing that it limited his “ right to free speech after it prevented him from passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution.” Fortunately for the student, Kevin Shaw, a court sided with him earlier last week when the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) agreed to settle the suit.
A college student in Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against his school, arguing that it limited his “ right to free speech after it prevented him from passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution.” Fortunately for the student, Kevin Shaw, a court sided with him earlier last week when the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) agreed to settle the suit..
According to Shaw’s lawsuit, Pierce College barred him “from passing out copies of the document because he wasn’t in the school’s designated ‘free speech zone,’ which measured 616 square feet or about the size of three parking spaces.” As part of the settlement, the school’s free speech zone, a small, designated area for “students to exercise their first amendment rights, will be abandoned altogether.” The move revokes a “district-wide policy that declared all property on the district’s nine campuses to be ‘non-public forums’ with speech restrictions.” In addition, the $225,000 worth of attorney fees that Shaw racked up will be covered by LACCD.
While commenting on the settlement, Shaw said:
“Though it was not without its difficulties, this experience has left me optimistic about the guiding principles of my country. Folks of all political dispositions rallied behind this case to declare in no uncertain terms: freedom of speech is essential to the educational process.”
How did the incident occur, though? What are the details that prompted Shaw to file his suit against the school? Well, according to Shaw, the incident occurred right before the November 2016 general election. While attempting to “distribute Spanish-language copies of the Constitution during a recruiting drive for his student group, a campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty on the main quad at Pierce College,” an administrator approached him and informed him he “could not distribute literature outside the designated zone.” Shaw also claimed in his suit that he was told he “would have to fill out a permit application to use the free speech zone and would be asked to leave campus if he refused to comply.”
In a statement to Fox News in 2017, Shaw said:
“When I attempted to hand out copies of the Constitution that day, my only intention was to get students thinking about our founding principles and to inspire discussion of liberty and free speech. I had no idea I would be called upon to defend those very ideals against Pierce’s unconstitutional campus policies.”
With the help of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an advocacy group, Shaw filed his suit in March 2017. The school pushed back against the suit, though, and made a motion to dismiss the suit. However, a federal court denied the school’s request, ruling that the “open spaces of public colleges are traditional public forums for student speech regardless of regulations.”
Attorney Arthur Willner, who was also a co-counsel with FIRE in Shaw’s case, said, “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.”