Sinclair Community College: Unconstitutional Ban on Distributing Literature After Class

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Sinclair Community College

Ethel Borel-Donohue, a student in SCC’s Paralegal Program, peacefully distributed fliers regarding abortion, birth control, and breast cancer, after a class session. Days later, Borel-Donohue was summoned to the office of Judge Michael Brigner, Paralegal Program Chair. In a meeting in November 2010, Brigner reportedly stated that another student had complained to him about being “offended by the material in the brochures.” Brigner then told her she “had no right to hand out any materials to students in the classroom.” FIRE wrote to SCC President Steven Lee Jackson on March 16 in defense of Borel-Donohue’s free speech rights. FIRE also pointed out SCC’s unconstitutional speech code banning the distribution of literature throughout much of the SCC campus. Ohio Assistant Attorney General Lauren M. Ross initially defended SCC’s actions while pointing to an additional, conflicting policy also abridging the First Amendment right to distribute literature on campus. After FIRE wrote SCC Board of Trustees Chair Lawrence Porter, however, Porter replied to FIRE on May 10, 2011, stating that SCC was reviewing its speech policies after all. FIRE is awaiting the results of SCC’s review of its unconstitutional bans on distribution of literature.

  • Free Speech Under Assault at Sinclair Community College

    May 10, 2011

    Yet another assault on First Amendment rights on college campuses is taking place in Dayton, Ohio. Last October, Sinclair Community College (SCC) prohibited a paralegal studies student, Ethel Borel-Donohue, from distributing pamphlets to her fellow students after a class. The pamphlets focused on the link between abortion and the use of oral contraceptives to higher rates of breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but Judge Michael Brigner, Paralegal Program Chair, banned the distribution after receiving a complaint from a student who had had an abortion, telling Borel-Donohue she “had no right to hand out any materials to students in the classroom.” Borel-Donohue, contacted the Foundation for Individual […]

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  • Group: Ohio college’s policy violates free speech

    April 6, 2011

    by Lisa Cornwell Associated Press   CINCINNATI (AP) – A southwest Ohio college violated a student’s right to free speech by prohibiting her from passing out fliers on abortion, cancer and birth control on campus, a civil rights group said Wednesday. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent a letter to the president of Sinclair Community College in Dayton in February asking for a change in policies that it says violate students’ constitutional rights under the First Amendment. “The right to distribute literature about controversial topics is one of Americans’ most hallowed rights,” group president Greg Lukianoff said in a statement. The […]

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  • Ohio College to Review Ban on Peaceful Distribution of Literature on Campus

    May 23, 2011

    Ohio’s Sinclair Community College (SCC) has announced that it will review an unconstitutional policy that prohibits all distribution of literature on campus by individual students. SCC banned a student from distributing literature about abortion, birth control, and breast cancer to her classmates after class. After FIRE intervened, the Chair of SCC’s Board of Trustees, Lawrence Porter, stated that this policy and a second, conflicting policy would be reviewed. SCC student Ethel Borel-Donohue’s story began during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month last October, when she distributed roughly 15 flyers relating to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month to various students in her […]

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  • FIRE Keeps the Heat on Sinclair Community College

    May 6, 2011

    FIRE has asked the Board of Trustees of Sinclair Community College (SCC) to do what SCC President Steven Lee Johnson has refused to do: revise SCC’s unconstitutional distribution policies to preserve First Amendment rights for SCC students. FIRE’s letter to Board of Trustees Chair Lawrence Porter points out that SCC maintains two policies that not only contradict each other, but also unconstitutionally prevent students from distributing materials across a large percentage of the campus. These policies were used to prevent a pro-life student from distributing materials pertaining to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month to her classmates after class, when there was […]

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  • Robert in ‘Pajamas Media’ on Pamphleteering and Political Correctness

    April 25, 2011

    In his latest article for Pajamas Media, Robert criticizes the censorship of Ethel Borel-Donohue at Sinclair Community College (SCC). Torch readers will remember that Borel-Donohue was banned from distributing literature on abortion, birth control, and breast cancer to her classmates after class. Robert presents the evidence that SCC censored Borel-Donahue not because of its unconstitutional ban on distributing flyers (see Section IV.3), but because she was advocating viewpoints that the school deemed to be politically incorrect. Robert compares Borel-Donohue’s case to one at Princeton Theological Seminary, where a circulated pamphlet comparing the abortion rate in African-American communities to genocide prompted […]

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  • This Week in the News: Whistleblowing UCLA Professor Still Making Headlines and Hamilton College Wins Muzzle Award

    April 15, 2011

    UCLA’s gross violation of the rights of Dr. Enstrom, the whisteblowing professor fighting for his job after being told he did not fit his department’s “mission,” continued to elicit outrage in the media this week. Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle published both a column (reprinted in Townhall.com) and a shorter blog post (containing Reason.tv’s video on the case) criticizing the university’s actions. Also don’t miss Adam’s excellent interview about the case with Mike Slater of The Mike Slater Show. Up north, Hamilton College earned a Muzzle Award for forcing all first-year male students to attend “She Fears You,” […]

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  • This Week in the News: Hearings Begin for Whistleblowing UCLA Professor

    April 8, 2011

    Hearings for University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor and scientist James Enstrom began on Monday of this week. Torch readers will remember that Dr. Enstrom is fighting for his job after UCLA retaliated against him for his exposure of a California Air Resources Board (CARB) scientist with a fake Ph.D. as well as other staffing irregularities, and for Enstrom’s scientific critique of findings by CARB that were used to create air pollution regulations in the state.FIRE’s efforts to protect Enstrom’s rights have been picked up by writers for a number of outlets, including The Chronicle of Higher Education, Instapundit, […]

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  • Ohio College Prohibits Student from Peacefully Distributing Literature on Abortion, Birth Control

    April 6, 2011

    DAYTON, Ohio, April 6, 2011—Sinclair Community College has banned a student from distributing literature about abortion, birth control, and breast cancer to her classmates after class. The college also bans all distribution of literature on vast areas of campus. Student Ethel Borel-Donohue, who never disrupted class with her literature, came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “The right to distribute literature about controversial topics is one of Americans’ most hallowed rights,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “If someone’s claim to be offended by speech were all it took to overrule the First Amendment, we would […]

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