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Victory: Skyline College amends free speech policies, students may engage in expressive activity on campus without prior permission

Students at Skyline College have something to look forward to when they return to classes in January. They’ll be returning to a campus with amended policies that better protect their First Amendment rights. Skyline’s new policies make clear that students can engage in expressive activity outside of the school’s “free speech areas” and that students do not need to get permission before engaging in expressive activity.

In mid-December, FIRE sent a letter to Skyline and the San Mateo County Community College District, of which Skyline is a part, explaining that Skyline’s policies pertaining to student expressive activity were unconstitutional and inconsistent with a district policy governing expressive rights on campus. In our letter, we explained that Skyline’s policies improperly limited students’ expressive activities to “free speech areas” and required that they fill out a permit before engaging in expressive activity on campus.

“Public colleges can’t limit student expressive activity to ‘free speech areas’ or require that they fill out permits before engaging in expressive activity,” said FIRE Staff Attorney Brynne Madway. “We commend Skyline and the District for changing Skyline’s policies so quickly in response to our letter, and we are glad that Skyline students will return to school in 2018 with policies that would earn a ‘green light’ in our Spotlight Database.”

FIRE sent its letter after Skyline student Eric Corgas was approached by Skyline administrators while holding a “free speech ball” event in October. Corgas, who serves as president of the Skyline chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, was first told that he had to remove a small folding table while distributing copies of the Constitution of the United States. Another administrator then told Corgas that he needed to complete a permit application before engaging in any kind of expressive activity on campus.

In its letter, FIRE asked Skyline and the District to revise Skyline’s policies to protect students’ First Amendment rights and bring them in line with district policies. After receiving FIRE’s letter, Skyline and the District began reviewing Skyline’s policies in light of FIRE’s concerns. Skyline subsequently amended its policies to make clear that students can engage in expressive activity outside of the school’s free speech areas and that permits are not required to engage in expressive activity on campus.

FIRE always welcomes the opportunity to work with colleges and universities to revise unconstitutional speech codes. We look forward to more collaborative successes in 2018, and we look forward to seeing Skyline students make full use of their campus as they engage in expressive activities.

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