Jones College in Mississippi Settles With Student in First Amendment Case
“I am pleased that Jones College was willing to work in good faith to align their policies with the First Amendment rights guaranteed to all of us, especially students on their campus”
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The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education scores another victory for free speech.
From the FIRE Blog:
VICTORY: Student stopped by campus police for holding up a sign settles First Amendment lawsuit with Mississippi college
Mississippi’s Jones College on Wednesday finalized a settlement with former student Michael Brown, who sued the college after administrators and campus police infringed on his First Amendment rights. Brown’s suit, filed with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, brings policy changes that will protect the speech rights of all Jones College students.
“I am pleased that Jones College was willing to work in good faith to align their policies with the First Amendment rights guaranteed to all of us, especially students on their campus,” said Brown. “Fighting for this reform is important to me because we all must have the ability to speak freely, otherwise how are we any better than other nations and regimes that restrict what their citizens may say?”
Brown was stopped from exercising his free speech rights on campus twice in early 2019 when he tried to recruit fellow students for a campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. In February 2019, administrators called campus police to stop Brown from rolling around a “free speech ball,” telling him he needed the college’s permission before engaging in expressive activity. Two months later, campus police stopped Brown from holding up a sign polling fellow students on marijuana legalization without permission. The campus police chief hauled him into his office and told him he should’ve been “smarter” than to exercise his First Amendment rights without the college’s permission.
Represented by FIRE, Brown sued Jones College in September 2019, challenging the college’s overly-restrictive speech codes, which required administrative approval and a minimum three-day waiting period before “gathering for any purpose” anywhere on campus.
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While it is gratifying to see a matter like this resolved in favor of free speech, it is disturbing that the underlying infringement upon this young man’s rights happened at all. It is also troubling that it took almost two years to reach this agreement. What other infringements of Constitutionally-protected rights took place between February 2019 and November 2020? What takes so stinking long?
“The campus police chief hauled him into his office and told him he should’ve been “smarter” than to exercise his First Amendment rights without the college’s permission.”
It’s funny yet so sad that a university’s police chief was ignorant about the First Amendment.
He was just following orders. He cares far more about his job and pension and qualified immunity more than some silly rights.
It’s funny yet so sad that we expect cops to be constitutional law experts. All reality and all experience fairly shrieks at us that this is an unreasonable expectation.
Whenever I attempt to assert any of my actual rights at a traffic stop / immigration checkpoint / DUI roadblock, in variance to whatever the cop has “politely” asked me to do, the immediate response from the Armed Government Worker has always been, “Are you a lawyer?” I usually answer, “I was thinking you looked a little familiar, it’s possible we graduated from the very same law school.”
You don’t have to be a full-blown expert on constitutional law to know that freedom of speech is protected by the 1st amendment — you only need to have taken civics at some point in school or be aware of various free speech issues in the news.
And we do expect police to know the basic principles of 4th and 5th amendment law as it relates to their jobs. Which is as it should be.
Not all campus security forces are sworn law enforcement officers. Some do not have the immunity that the law grants to law enforcement officers.
An important question is whether Jones College is enforcing its limitations on speech in a content-neutral manner. Did they stop both liberal and conservative students from gathering or protesting on the campus?
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