Win for Free Speech at Tarrant County College Grabbing Headlines

By on March 17, 2010

As we reported yesterday regarding our victory at Tarrant County College (TCC) in Texas, where students had been repeatedly denied the right to hold an “empty holster” protest, the federal district court’s decision in favor of First Amendment rights on campus is a big win for student speech. Specifically, as our press release notes:

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means found that TCC’s reliance on a policy prohibiting “disruptive activities” to restrict students Clayton Smith and John Schwertz from holding an “empty holster” protest violated the First Amendment. Judge Means further ruled that TCC’s sweeping  prohibition on “cosponsorship,” which forbade students and faculty from holding campus events in association with any “off-campus person or organization,” prevented TCC students “from speaking on campus on issues of any social importance” and was therefore “overly broad” and “unconstitutional on its face.”

Unsurprisingly, this news has perked up the ears of the media. Bill Hanna of the Star-Telegram was first on the scene, adding this insight into the proceedings:

During the trial, Means recalled dealing with volatile protests on the SMU campus as student body president that were allowed to take place with the assistance of the administration. In his ruling, Means expressed frustration that TCC did not seem to embrace the idea that a campus is “a marketplace of ideas” for its students.

CBS 11 of Fort Worth has the story as well, as does the Chronicle of Higher Education. Courthouse News Service briefly gives the ins and outs of Means’ decision (which you can read here). KRLD 1080 (Dallas) also covers the victory secured by Fort Worth attorney Karin Cagle, FIRE and the ACLU-TX, and KFYO 790′s “Pratt on Texas” (Lubbock, TX) wrote yesterday that the case would be covered on yesterday’s show.

The blog of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression also carries word of the victory, which has finally undone the policy that earned TCC a 2009 Jefferson Muzzle. A full accounting of TCC’s misdeeds, of course, will live on in the Jefferson Muzzle archives, not to mention on TCC’s case page at FIRE’s website.

Schools: Tarrant County College Cases: Tarrant County College Bans Symbolic ‘Empty Holster’ Protest