A student whose recruitment drive last year for a Young Americans for Liberty chapter included a gun-rights sign is getting paid $50,000 by a college, which also is revising its restrictive speech policies, according to officials with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
The settlement came about in a dispute involving Blinn College in Texas.
The civil-rights organization filed a lawsuit after student Nicole Sanders, while recruiting for the conservative students group, was told she needed a special permit for a gun-rights sign.
No guns. No ammunition. Just a sign that said, “Defend Guns Rights on Campus.”
The settlement calls for the payment of $50,000 to the student as well as for the college to change its policies so that they now comply with the First Amendment.
“I truly hope that the legacy of this case will make Blinn a place where free speech rights are both exercised by students and protected by the administration,” Sanders said in a statement released by FIRE.
She and another student in February 2015 were recruiting on the Brenham campus for YAL. They held signs for about 90 minutes outside a student center, including the gun rights sign and another that read “LOL,” with the Obama campaign logo replacing the “O.”
An administrator and three armed campus officers then confronted them and “told them they needed ‘special permission’ to collect signups for their club and display their signs,” FIRE reported.
“I don’t know that you can get special permission” to advocate for gun rights, FIRE reported the official said.
The college said its policies required a month’s notice and approval from four administrators for “expressive activity,” either on campus or off.
The First Amendment lawsuit followed shortly later, where FIRE pointed out that the college’s “free speech area” included less than 0.0007 percent of the 62-acre campus,
The settlement that resulted will “bring the policies that Sanders challenged in line with the First Amendment,” FIRE reported.
“Because Nicole bravely stood up for what she knew was right, the free speech rights of more than 17,000 students at Blinn College have been restored today,” said Catherine Sevcenko, FIRE’s director of litigation.
“Students should never be confronted by armed police officers and forced through bureaucratic red tape when trying to express themselves on the issues they are passionate about, whether it’s gun rights or gay rights.”
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