Pierce College student plaintiff Kevin Shaw.
Last week was one for FIRE’s history books. The launch of our Million Voices Campaign marked the expansion of FIRE’s already robust litigation efforts with an aggressive new initiative aimed at striking down unconstitutional speech codes across the country — and freeing the voices of one million students.
We started toward that ambitious goal last Tuesday, when we filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Pierce College student Kevin Shaw, who was prevented from handing out copies of the United States Constitution because he was outside of his campus’ designated “free speech zone.” 1 in every 10 institutions surveyed in FIRE’s most recent Spotlight on Speech Codes report quarantines free expression to such areas. Pierce College’s free speech zone comprises just .003% of the campus. (To provide a sense of scale, if the campus were the size of a tennis court, the free speech zone would be roughly the size of a cell phone.)
Kevin was also told he’d need to apply for a permit to use the free speech zone.
For a college with more than 22,000 students, a by-permit-only area that small hardly provides opportunity for the robust exchange of ideas.
Because FIRE continues to see far too many cases like Kevin’s, his lawsuit challenges not only Pierce’s free speech zone policy, but that of the entire Los Angeles Community College District. A successful suit would free more than 150,000 student voices on the nine district campuses from unconstitutional speech codes.
Will you join our efforts by supporting FIRE’s Million Voices Campaign?
Your support will help build on FIRE’s past litigation success and open up new opportunities for even more impact. In our Million Voices Campaign, we will partner with the talented and dedicated attorneys from our renowned FIRE Legal Network to expand our reach and challenge even more colleges and universities to defend their policies in court.
Of course, while our campaign may be new, the work isn’t.
FIRE has been battling against unconstitutional speech policies like the free speech zone policy in the Pierce case for years — and we know how to win: Our Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, which launched in 2014 thanks to an outpouring of support from donors like you, boasts a 100% victory rate, secured $400,000 in damages and attorney’s fees, and prompted policy changes benefitting more than 600,000 students.
Now, we want to make an even bigger impact to ensure students like Kevin — and a million others like him — can finally engage in their constitutionally protected right to free speech. Students on public campuses should be able to speak their minds without being confined to tiny zones, made to register or acquire permits, and navigate other restrictive policies. As FIRE embarks on a quest to free a Million Voices, we hope you will join us.
Please consider donating today. Together, FIRE is confident we can free a Million Voices. That’s quite a return on your investment!
You can donate right now using our secure online donation form. We are also more than happy to take your donation over the phone, so feel free to give us a call. Thank you in advance for your support!