L.A. Community Colleges Forced to Stop Restricting Campus Speech

‘Though it was not without its difficulties, this experience has left me optimistic about the guiding principles of my country…’

Los Angeles Community Colleges Agree to Stop Restricting Campus Speech 1

Kevin Shaw/PHOTO: Courtesy of FIRE

(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) After a courtroom battle lasting more than a year and a half, a judge ordered that a California community college district has to release 150,000 students from the stifling limits of “free speech zones.”

The Los Angeles Community College District settled its lawsuit with student Kevin Shaw and will now allow free speech throughout its campuses, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reported.

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,” said FIRE Director of Litigation Marieke Tuthill Beck–Coon. “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.”

LACCD also agreed to pay $225,000 in attorneys’ fees.

FIRE litigated on behalf of Shaw, who was told that he could not pass out U.S. Constitutions except in a small part of the Los Angeles Pierce College campus—about 0.003 percent of its total size.

In November 2016, Shaw was passing out Spanish-language versions of the U.S. Constitution to get members for conservative student group Young Americans for Liberty, when administrators told him that he would either have to move to the small free speech zone or obtain a permit.

LAACD claimed that its policy was constitutional, but the U.S. district court for the Central District of California ruled that all outdoor areas on campuses are free speech areas, and so the college’s policy was unconstitutional.

Shaw’s lawsuit is part of FIRE’s Million Voices Campaign, which has struck down campus speech codes across the country. FIRE hopes the campaign will liberate 1 million student voices from unconstitutional speech restrictions and “free speech zones.”

“Though it was not without its difficulties, this experience has left me optimistic about the guiding principles of my country,” Shaw said. “Folks of all political dispositions rallied behind this case to declare in no uncertain terms: freedom of speech is essential to the educational process.”