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 college’s counsel replied with a letter last month, pointing out a section of college policy banning distribution of literature in classrooms and other working areas of campus.
Sinclair general counsel Lauren Ross said Wednesday that the policy does not violate free speech rights.
"A college has the absolute right to regulate activity like that in a classroom," Ross said.
Student Ethel Borel-Donohue was in a classroom when she distributed the fliers, leaving them on chairs, Ross said.
The civil rights group said Borel-Donohue never disrupted class and passed out the fliers discussing alleged links between abortion and cancer and birth control and cancer to classmates after class.
"The student just wanted to provide information to her classmates about important social and medical issues, but the college wouldn’t let her," group spokesman Adam Kissel said. "This policy violates constitutional rights at a place that should be dedicated to the marketplace of ideas."
The group said it sent a second letter to Sinclair president Steven Lee Johnson on March 23, asking him to bring the college’s policies "in line with the First Amendment."
The group has received no response, Kissel said, adding that it will continue publicizing its concerns.
Ross said the college plans no further action and would not be revising its policy "with regard to this particular issue."