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California College Suspends Speech Restrictions Amidst Settlement Talks

FRESNO, Calif., Dec. 18, 2013—Modesto Junior College (MJC) has agreed to suspend enforcement of its “free speech zone” as it negotiates an end to a federal lawsuit filed by a student prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution on campus on Constitution Day.

A joint stipulation filed in federal district court yesterday by MJC and attorneys for student Robert Van Tuinen states that the parties have agreed on several significant revisions to the college’s “free speech policies and procedures,” pending final approval by the Yosemite Community College District, expected this spring.

“FIRE welcomes this development as a sign that Modesto Junior College is making important progress towards bringing its policies in line with the First Amendment,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Today, Robert Van Tuinen and over 17,000 fellow students and faculty members may exercise their First Amendment rights without being confined to a free speech zone or required to register in advance.”

MJC made national news by preventing Van Tuinen from handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution in an area by the student center on September 17, the anniversary of the U.S. Constitution's signing. As captured in a video taken by Van Tuinen, a campus police officer informed him that he could not pass out any materials without first registering with the student development office. Van Tuinen then spoke with an MJC administrator, who told him that he could only pass out literature inside the “free speech area,” which she informed him was “in front of the student center, in that little cement area.”

After MJC refused to reform its policies restricting student speech, Van Tuinen filed his civil rights lawsuit against MJC on October 10. Van Tuinen is represented by the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine and is assisted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Greg Lukianoff, President, FIRE: 215-717-3473;

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