Six months ago today, Modesto Junior College officials stopped student Robert Van Tuinen from distributing copies of the Constitution on campus, prompting him to file suit for violation of his First Amendment rights. Last Friday, Van Tuinen’s lawyers filed a stipulation for dismissal of his lawsuit in federal court, the final step in implementing the settlement that resulted in a complete overhaul of Modesto Junior College’s (MJC’s) speech policies (PDF) and expectations as well as a $50,000 payment.
Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; in fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” In this case, Robert Van Tuinen stood up for the rights of all students at MJC with the support of a few fellow students, faculty, his family, and three of the ablest First Amendment lawyers in the country—Robert Corn-Revere, Ronald London, and Lisa Zycherman of Davis Wright Tremaine. FIRE is incredibly proud of its role in helping to bring these extraordinary people together so that they could restore free expression to MJC.
We’ll be assessing the MJC case and sharing our lessons learned in the coming weeks—but when it comes to First Amendment violations on campus, we know that MJC is just the tip of the iceberg.
So, what’s next? You tell us.
If you’re reading this post, you know the importance of the First Amendment. Please consider being the next Robert Van Tuinen by challenging the speech codes on your campus. Submit a case and tell us how your school used its regulations to stifle your voice. Or use our new email address for students who want to challenge their school’s speech policies: firstname.lastname@example.org. If FIRE can help you, we will.