College Student’s Lawsuit Gets School to Abandon Campus ‘Free Speech Zones’

December 16, 2018 Updated: December 18, 2018
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A group of Los Angeles community colleges abolished “free speech zones” after a student filed a lawsuit because his college prohibited him from passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution.

Kevin Shaw managed to get the school group to settle the lawsuit. The Los Angeles Community College District and its nine schools will abolish the free speech zones, Fox News reported. The zone at Pierce College, where Shaw attended, measured only 616 square feet.

The school had previously declared all school property to be nonpublic forums where speech could be regulated by the school, according to Fox. Shaw was only allowed to pass out the Constitution in the small, regulated area, but even with the zone, Shaw still needed approval from the school to use it.

“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,” Shaw said in a statement to Fox. “I had no idea I would be called upon to defend those very ideals against Pierce’s unconstitutional campus policies.”

In 2016, before the presidential election, Shaw tried to hand out Spanish-language copies of the Constitution at Pierce College, an activity as part of the Young Americans for Liberty club on campus, Fox reported. That’s when a school administrator approached him about the policies.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education helped Shaw file a lawsuit in March 2017. In January, a federal district court upheld Shaw’s motion that open spaces on college campuses are traditional public forums, despite the efforts of Pierce College and the school district to get the motion dismissed.

“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,” said Arthur Willner, attorney in the case, via Fox.

The school district told Fox News it will abolish the free speech zones in January after the action is finalized by their board of trustees.

Political Candidacy

A Facebook page shows Shaw as a candidate for the California state Assembly with the Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County.

In his campaign video, posted in January, he talks about the incident that led to the lawsuit and how he hopes the legal action can benefit other students.

“My own college put in place a free speech zone and requires you to fill out a permit to express any political activities. I was passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution, trying to express some solidarity with my friends on the left and right. I was perceived to be conservative, and my school targeted me for scrutiny. They told me that if I did not comply and fill out this permit to stand in a free speech zone they would get the police and have me removed from the school. Well, I had a test later that day, and I complied. It is my hope that at the end of this, over 150,000 students will no longer be affected by these policies. And students that come after me aren’t going to have to worry whether their political speech will be stifled.”

From NTD News