Lawsuit: JC violated former student’s right to free speech

Lawsuit: JC violated former student’s right to free speech
Jones College is being sued by a former student.

JONES COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - A former Jones College student filed a lawsuit claiming school officials stopped him from polling students on campus and encouraging them to exercise their First Amendment rights.

The student, Mike Brown, along with the campus group Young Americans for Liberty at Jones County Junior College are suing JC over policies they claim deny students their First Amendment rights on campus. In the court filing, Brown says the school stopped him twice from exercising free speech when he tried to recruit fellow students for the campus’ chapter of Young Americans for Liberty.

In February, Brown and a friend made a “free speech ball,” an inflatable beach ball where students could write messages of their choice, while YAL representatives talked to them about the importance of free speech. Brown claims an administrator told the group they were not allowed to have the gathering on campus because they did not have the college’s approval.

Brown said the next encounter happened in April when he and two others were polling students on the legalization of recreational marijuana. The suit claims JC administrators called campus police because the group did not fill out the proper paperwork.

Below is an excerpt from the Assemblies Regulations section of the Jones College Student Handbook:

Any student parade, serenade, demonstration, rally, and/or other meeting or gathering for any purpose, conducted on the campus of the institution must be scheduled with the President or Vice President of Student Affairs at least 72 hours in advance of the event. (Forms available in Student Affairs) Names of the responsible leaders of the groups must be submitted to the institution at the time of scheduling. Organizations which meet at regular times and places may, schedule such meetings with the Office of Student Affairs at the beginning of each year.
Jones College Student Handbook

One of the attorneys representing Brown and YA, Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, is the director of litigation for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nationwide campus free speech organization.

“Students shouldn’t have to seek permission – then wait three days – before they can exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Beck-Coon. “If a ball threatens the administration so much that they call campus police, no speech is safe at Jones College.”

A statement from Jones College says its policies are not meant to stifle free speech for students, but rather to provide everyone with a safe environment free of hate speech and discrimination.

You can read the full official statement from Jones College below:

The college is aware of the complaint as published and promoted by a national special interest organization. Although the college has not been officially served any court papers, we understand that the issue revolves around our policies regarding student activities, organizations, and public forums. These policies have been in place not to limit student’s right to free speech or assembly but to ensure that all students have equal and safe access to an environment free from hate speech; racial, gender, national origin, religious affiliation; and disability discrimination.
Official statement from Jones College

Beck-Coon said FIRE reached out to JC President Jesse Smith in May, but the organization has not received a response.

You can read the full lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court here:

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