A student filed suit on Tuesday against Los Angeles Pierce College for violating his right to free speech. Kevin Shaw filed suit after an incident in November where he was prohibited from passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution because he wasn’t in a campus designated free-speech zone.
A free-speech zone is an area designated by the campus that students are allowed to protest and distribute materials in. The practice began back during the Vietnam War as a way to manage the growing number of protests and most schools have since ceased the practice. Some schools such as Pierce College still use the zones as a way to protect students and school operations but opponents to the idea argue that they are a way of censoring students.
Shaw’s lawsuit also targets the entire Los Angeles Community College District over a policy that states Pierce College and the other 8 schools in the district must all designate free-speech zones. The district said on Tuesday that they stand behind students’ right to free expression but refused to comment any further on the issue.
The goal of the lawsuit is to get the court to eliminate the free-speech zone policies of the district as well as any other policies that limit free speech. Shaw is also seeking monetary damages to be determined by the court.
Free-speech zones have already been banned this year in Colorado and Utah and there are currently proposed bans pending in Texas, Illinois, and Georgia. These bans eliminate all free-speech zones on campuses as lawmakers argue that students should confront ideas they don’t like. Several defiant schools including Grand Valley State and Citrus College have been forced to change their policies after students sued over their continued use.
What do you think? Are free-speech zones useful on campuses or are they a form of censorship?