California College Student Wins Settlement in Free Speech Case

February 27, 2014

By Bethany Monk at CitizenLink

An Army veteran who was prohibited from handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution last year — on National Constitution day — won a settlement against a California college earlier this week.

Robert Van Tuinen was attempting to hand out copies of the document on Sept. 17, the 226th anniversary of its signing. A Modesto Junior College (MJC) campus security guard told him he had to register first. Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), said Van Tuinen was also told he had to remain inside a “free speech area.” He happened to record the entire incident.

“I am thrilled with this outcome and I am grateful to my attorneys and FIRE for securing this agreement,” said Van Tuinen. “Now the Modesto Junior College community and I will be able to engage in free discussion on campus. I encourage students at other schools with restrictive free speech policies to stand up for their rights.”

The college settled the case on Monday. It has agreed to revise its policies to allow free speech throughout campus. The school will also pay Van Tuinin $50,000, most of which will go to legal fees.

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said he and his group are “very pleased’ that a settlement was reached.

“Modesto Junior College students will now be able to exercise their First Amendment rights across campus,” Lukianoff explained. “But because 59 percent of colleges nationwide maintain policies that clearly and substantially restrict student speech, there’s much more work to be done.”

Schools: Modesto Junior College Cases: Modesto Junior College: Students Barred from Distributing Constitutions on Constitution Day