Student Sues Community College Over Free Speech Rights

January 12, 2018

An Illinois community college student has sued her institution alleging a free speech violation when campus police detained her and confiscated leaflets she was passing out that were critical of capitalism.

Ivette Salazar filed a lawsuit against Joliet Junior College with the backing of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a watchdog group for civil liberties in academe.

After a conservative student group distributed antisocialism literature on the campus, Salazar wanted to hand out materials with an opposing viewpoint, she said in a statement.

Salazar says she was stopped by a campus officer, who told her she could only give out her fliers after the college had given its permission. The fliers were taken from her at the police headquarters, she says, where she was told she could not pass them out given the “political climate.”

Her lawsuit challenges the college’s policy of restricting free expression to one area of campus. A student must request use of the space at least five days in advance, notify the college of what the student is using it for and, if passing out literature, get it approved by administrators.

“I should be able to express my political beliefs on campus without being detained,” Salazar said in her statement via FIRE. “JCC didn’t just threaten my freedom of speech, but the freedom of speech of every student on that campus. If we can’t have political discussions on a college campus, then where can we have them?”

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