Court Rules Lawsuit Against College ‘Speech Zone’ Will Continue

California judge rules all outdoor areas are free speech areas…

Student Rights Group Begins Litigation Against Campus 'Speech Zones'

Kevin Shaw/PHOTO: FIRE

(Ana Michaels, Liberty Headlines) A California court has struck down a request to dismiss the pending lawsuit against Pierce College over its controversial “Free Speech zone.”

In the order, the court rejected the argument made by the school that the very small “free speech area” – provided to the student body for forums, protests or similar activities – was constitutional.

United States District Court for the Central District of California ruled that Pierce’s speech zone violated the First Amendment.

More importantly, it was the court’s opinion that all outdoor areas were free speech areas and the college could not confine students to a particular space.

While the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on First Amendment rights, it ruled against the plaintiff’s request for monetary damages.

The lawsuit was originally filed in March by lawyers from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) on behalf of student Kevin Shaw.

The suit against Pierce College and the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) cited an incident where Shaw was told he was not allowed to give out copies of the U.S. Constitution written in Spanish, unless he stayed in the college’s designated speech zone.

The size of that zone is .003 percent, or 616 feet, of the total campus acreage.

The LACCD has nine schools, including Pierce, and is the largest community college district in the entire country.


“The court’s ruling sends an important message to colleges nationwide that still restrict student speech to free speech zones,” said FIRE Director of Litigation Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon in a press release.

“The campus is a college student’s public square. It’s their space to be engaged citizens. The public recognizes this. So do courts across the country. Now it’s time for LACCD to follow suit,” said Beck-Coon.