The Department of Justice and Education Secretary Betsy Devos have accused a Mississippi community college of behaving like a “police state” and infringing on the free speech rights of students.
Back in September, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education filed a lawsuit against Jones College after the school threatened to arrest student members of Young Americans for Liberty for their marijuana legalization advocacy on campus.
Campus police originally kept YAL members from tabling to promote this issue. FIRE decided to represent YAL and student Michael Brown in a lawsuit against the school.
The Department of Justice also stepped in to give its take on the matter, releasing a statement insisting that “College campuses should not be mini police states.”
“The United States of America is not a police state,” declared assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband, adding “Repressive speech codes are the indecent hallmark of despotic, totalitarian regimes. They have absolutely no place in our country.”
Devos chimed in as well, describing the situation as “yet another concerning example of students encountering limits on what, when, where, and how they learn.”
“This is happening far too often on our nation’s campuses. This Administration won’t let students be silenced. We stand with their right to speak and with their right to learn truth through the free exchange of ideas—particularly those with which they might disagree,” DeVos continued.
According to Campus Reform, Jones County Junior College told them that it “has reviewed the statement of interest filed by the federal government on this matter,” and that “At this time a preliminary motion to dismiss certain claims against certain defendants is pending before the court.”
The school pushed back against these allegations, telling Campus Reform that “the only alleged facts in the record come from the unproven statements contained in the plaintiffs’ complaint,” and took issue with DOJ’s statement by stating that it “broadly accepts those allegations and the merits of plaintiffs’ claims. The College looks forward to the Court’s ruling on the motion to dismiss and to developing the facts of this case through the discovery process.”
The college insisted that its “goal has always been 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.”
“The plaintiffs’ allegations require the College to actively defend itself, its employees, and the Trustees from the position that no harm was done to the plaintiff by the College. Our mission is to teach the ideals of a democratic society. We focus every effort to ensure our students have access to their future through advanced affordable education that stands not only on free inquiry but promotes learning, advances knowledge, and promotes economic growth for the American family,” the college opined.
This case shows how free speech, a time-honored civil liberty in America, is still under threat by campus administrators.
Making sure that college campuses remain free speech zones is one fight that the Right should enthusiastically take on.
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