Calif. college student wins $50K settlement in free speech case

February 26, 2014

by Jessica Chasmar at The Washington Times

A California student, who was ordered by school officials to stop handing out copies of the Constitution on National Constitution Day, has won a $50,000 settlement against Modesto Junior College.

Robert Van Tuinen, 26, also won an agreement to have his school revise its speech codes, which previously limited free speech to a small area students had to register to use, Fox News reported.

“They were maintaining an unconstitutional speech code, and now any of my fellow students can go out and exercise their right to free speech,” Mr. Van Tuinen, an Army veteran, told Fox.

Video shot in September showed Mr. Van Tuinen being confronted by a campus police officer within minutes of passing out pocket Constitutions. The officer then escorted the student to an administrative office, where a woman shows him documents that designate an area “in front of the student center, in that little cement area” where the First Amendment is allowed, Fox reported.

“It was a tense situation,” Mr. Van Tuinen said. “To be told I can’t do something as basic as handing out the Constitution was frustrating.”

On Monday, the school settled the case by agreeing to revise its policies and pay Mr. Van Tuinen $50,000, which he says will go mostly toward legal fees.

“I am thrilled with this outcome, and I am grateful to my attorneys and FIRE [Foundation for Individual Rights in Education] for securing this agreement,” Mr. Van Tuinen said in a statement. “Now the Modesto Junior College community and I will be able to engage in free discussion on campus. I encourage students at other schools with restrictive free speech policies to stand up for their rights.”


Schools: Modesto Junior College Cases: Modesto Junior College: Students Barred from Distributing Constitutions on Constitution Day