Lawsuit Challenges Citrus College’s Free Speech Rules

July 3, 2014

By Jeanne Kuang at NBC Los Angeles

A lawsuit filed against Citrus College on Tuesday aims to do away with the school’s allegedly unconstitutional rules that only allow free speech on about 1 percent of campus.

Student Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle filed the lawsuit in federal court, alleging that when he tried gathering signatures for an anti-NSA spying petition on the Glendora campus in September 2013, he was told he could not do so outside the school’s “Free Speech Areas.”

The lawsuit says the school’s free speech areas are “miniscule,” allegedly 1.37 percent of campus.

Sinapi-Riddle is seeking damages, attorney’s fees and an injunction for the school to end its policy.

Citrus College did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit was coordinated by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education as part of the organization’s efforts to hold more schools accountable to the First Amendment. FIRE also helped file three other free speech lawsuits on Tuesday, against Ohio University, Chicago State University and Iowa State University.

Robert Shibley, senior vice president of FIRE, said as a public school, Citrus College is bound by the Constitution.

“Campuses are afraid of controversial things happening, so they unconstitutionally limit speech,” Shibley said.

He said he is confident the students will win their cases because “the state of law on when it comes to free speech on campus is very solid.”

This isn’t the first time Citrus College has been accused of First Amendment violations. In 2003, a student filed a lawsuit challenging policies that restricted speech to certain areas and required students to get approval from the school before expressing their views.

Schools: Citrus College Cases: FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project Citrus College – Stand Up For Speech Lawsuit