Hearing Today in ‘Free Speech Zone’ Lawsuit in Texas

By January 12, 2010

The Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas) is reporting on today’s hearing in federal court regarding FIRE’s case at Tarrant County College (TCC). As Torch readers will remember, TCC violated the constitutional rights of student protesters who intended to participate in the national “Students for Concealed Carry on Campus” protest by wearing empty holstersjust like students around the country were doing. The students were told that they could not wear the holsters anywhere on campus and had to confine all protests to tiny “free speech zones.” Ultimately, with the help of FIRE and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the students filed a lawsuit to vindicate their rights and defeat TCC’s unconstitutional policies and practices.

In November, the students won a temporary restraining order that permitted them to engage in a recent protest for their cause, including the wearing of empty holsters on most of the campus. Following the district court’s order, TCC revised its handbook but still failed to properly protect the constitutional rights of students and campus visitors, as the plaintiffs’ amended complaint makes clear.

According to the Star-Telegram article:

“Defendants claim they have ceased to violate the law by changing their policies and practices,” the amended complaint states. “They have not. Defendants have only changed their policies and handbook for the worse. As set out above, their new policies and practices are unconstitutional, not properly adopted and violate state law.”

Today’s hearing marks the beginning of the test of TCC’s revised policies, should they be found to have been properly adopted in the first place.

Of note, the article also mentions FIRE’s case at Texas Tech University, where the constitutionality of Texas Tech’s “Free Speech Gazebo” was successfully challenged in a 2003 lawsuitthe third victory in FIRE’s Speech Code Litigation Projectand in the same federal district as the present lawsuit against TCC.

We’ll keep Torch readers posted about the outcome of this important trial. Stay tuned!

Schools: Tarrant County College Texas Tech University