LA college district abolishes free speech zones as part of lawsuit settlement

A Los Angeles college student who sued his school for allegedly curbing his right to free speech after it prevented him from passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution was vindicated in court this week. The Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), which represents nine schools, including Pierce College, agreed on Wednesday to settle a lawsuit … Continue reading “LA college district abolishes free speech zones as part of lawsuit settlement”

A Los Angeles college student who sued his school for allegedly curbing his right to free speech after it prevented him from passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution was vindicated in court this week.

The Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), which represents nine schools, including Pierce College, agreed on Wednesday to settle a lawsuit filed against them last year by student Kevin Shaw after he was barred 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 a part of the settlement, the tiny area marked for students to exercise their first amendment rights will be abandoned altogether, revoking a district-wide policy that declared all property on the district’s nine campuses to be “non-public forums” with speech restrictions. As part of the settlement, LACCD will pay Shaw’s $225,000 in attorney fees.

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

It was just before the general election in November 2016 when Shaw had attempted 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 told him he could not distribute literature outside the designated zone. Shaw said at the time he was also told that 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.

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The school’s designated “free speech zone,” measured 616 square feet or about the size of three parking spaces. (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education)

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“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 News in early 2017. “I had no idea I would be called upon to defend those very ideals against Pierce’s unconstitutional campus policies.”

Shaw, with the help of advocacy organization, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), filed suit back in March 2017 and this past January, a federal district court denied the district and Pierce College administrators’ motion to dismiss Shaw’s lawsuit finding that the open spaces of public colleges are traditional public forums for student speech regardless of regulations.

“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, and co-counsel with FIRE in the case.

When reached for comment, officials with LACCD said the move to wipe out the zones will take place in January after their Board of Trustees formalizes the action.

"The purpose of these regulations is to foster free speech, assembly, and other expressive activities, while addressing the need of each Community College campus to make necessary arrangements to assure that such activities do not interfere with the College's mission and operation or the rights of others," LACCD said in a statement provided to Fox News.

Perry Chiaramonte is a producer with Fox News Channel’s Investigative Unit. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych

California Dem Ted Lieu say he would ‘love to regulate’ speech, bemoans US Constitution that prohibits him

California Democrat Ted Lieu bemoaned on Wednesday that though he would “love to be able to regulate the content of speech,” including that on Fox News, he can’t do it because of the U.S. Constitution.

Lieu made the comments during an interview about the testimony of Google CEO Sundar Pichai at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, where he dismissed the allegations that the tech giant amplifies negative stories about Republican lawmakers, saying “if you want positive search results, do positive things."

CNN host Brianna Keilar praised Lieu for his performance but asked whether other Democrats should have used the committee to press Google on conspiracy theories that spread on their platforms.

“It's a very good point you make. I would love if I could have more than five minutes to question witnesses. Unfortunately, I don't get that opportunity,” Lieu said of the committee hearings.

“However, I would love to be able to regulate the content of speech. The First Amendment prevents me from doing so, and that's simply a function of the First Amendment, but I think over the long run, it's better the government does not regulate the content of speech,” he continued.

"I would love to be able to regulate the content of speech. The First Amendment prevents me from doing so, and that’s simply a function of the First Amendment, but I think over the long run, it’s better the government does not regulate the content of speech."

— California Democrat Ted Lieu

Lieu added that private companies should self-regulate their platforms and said the government shouldn’t interfere.

After his remarks aired, Lieu came under fire on social media, prompting him to go on a Twitter spree to clarify his views, including that he would like to regulate Fox News.

One Twitter user had accused him of being “a poster child for the tyranny.”

Lieu insisted that he’s actually defending the First Amendment rather than showing his desire to regulate speech.

“My whole point is that government officials always want to regulate speech, see e.g. the Republican Judiciary hearing alleging Google is biased against Republicans,” he wrote in another tweet. “But thank goodness the First Amendment prevents me, @POTUS and Republicans from doing so.”

“I agree there are serious issues, but the speech issues are protected by the First Amendment,” the Democrat added. “Would I like to regulate Fox News? Yes, but I can't because the First Amendment stops me. And that's ultimately a good thing in the long run.”

Lieu has become somewhat a foe of President Trump following his election, often taking to social media to throw jabs at the president.

He’s among the Democrats who’s been flirting with the idea of impeaching Trump over the perceived collusion between Russia and the campaign. He also tried to kick-start earlier this year the impeachment process of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

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Lieu also raised eyebrows in summer after playing on House floor an audio recording of the crying migrant children separated from their families as part of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance policy.”

Last year, Lieu was slammed for walking out of a moment of silence for victims of a mass shooting at a Texas church.

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.

UC Berkeley will pay $70G to conservative group to settle free speech lawsuit

After more than a year of litigation, the University of California, Berkeley, has settled a lawsuit with the Young Americas Foundation and the UC Berkeley College Republicans.

Campus conservatives accused the university of bias in the process of bringing high-profile speakers to campus. The original lawsuit revolved around the cancellation of an event with Ann Coulter. An amended version of the lawsuit included roadblocks initiated by the university for an event with Ben Shapiro.

The Department of Justice filed a statement of interest backing the campus conservatives. The crux of their argument revolved around two campus policies that they claim violate students’ First and 14th Amendment rights: an unspoken "High-Profile Speaker Policy" and an on-the-books "Major Events Policy."

“This Department of Justice will not stand by idly while public universities violate students’ constitutional rights,” Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand said at the time.

In the settlement, UC Berkeley agreed to the following terms set by YAF:

1. Pay YAF $70,000.

2. Rescind the unconstitutional “High-Profile Speaker Policy.”

3. Rescind the viewpoint-discriminatory security fee policy.

4. Abolish its heckler’s veto — protesters will no longer be able to shut down conservative expression.

Under these terms, UC Berkeley will no longer be allowed to place a 3 p.m. curfew on conservative events or relegate conservative speakers to remote or inconvenient lecture halls on campus while giving left-leaning speakers access to preferred parts of campus.

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