Student criticizes TCC for banning empty gun holster

By May 23, 2008

A student is alleging that the Tarrant County College District shot itself in the foot when it denied him permission to wear an empty gun holster to protest laws that keep concealed weapons off Texas campuses.

The student, Brett Poulos, enlisted the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to help him battle the district after South Campus administrators told him in April that he could protest in the free-speech area but denied his request to wear a holster around campus.

“TCC has cast aside decades-old Supreme Court precedent strongly protecting symbolic expression by refusing to recognize its students’ right to wear empty holsters to make their point,” Greg Lukianoff, president of the foundation, said in a statement. “The students were using the empty holsters to protest policies that they believe render students defenseless. They have every right to engage in this symbolic protest, and TCC’s cynical attempt to ban dissenting views is both shameful and transparent.”

Juan Garcia, South Campus vice president for student development, defended the decision. He said recent shootings at Virginia Tech and Southern Illinois universities have left some students edgy.

“We’re protecting the learning environment,” Garcia said. “From a distance, you can’t tell if a holster is empty or not.”

University of Texas at Arlington administrators allowed protesting students to wear empty holsters as part of the National Collegiate Empty Holster Protest in April, according to the UT-Arlington newspaper, The Shorthorn.

Courts have upheld reasonable restrictions on campus speech. They have also upheld limitations on where students may protest.

“At first, he wanted to take the gun holsters into the classroom and discuss it there,” Garcia said.

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Schools: Tarrant County College