College pays $55k to settle lawsuit with arrested students
The students were told they could not engage in free expression on the public college's campus because the school had not yet recognized their YAL chapter, and they had not received approval to "solicit."
Kellogg Community College has agreed to revise its free speech policies and pay $55,000 in damages to settle a lawsuit filed by two students who were arrested by campus police for handing out pocket Constitutions on campus.
Kellogg Community College (KCC) has agreed to pay $55,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by two students who were arrested for handing out pocket Constitutions on campus.
According to a press release from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represented the students, KCC agreed to pay damages and attorneys’ fees, but will not admit to any wrongdoing.
As Campus Reform reported just over one year ago, a KCC student and two other conservative activists were arrested by campus police after spending two to three hours recruiting for the school’s Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter, during which they handed out pocket Constitutions to passersby.
KCC originally accused the activists—Leadership Institute employee and Stanford student Nathan Berning; Issac Edikauskas, vice president of Michigan State YAL; and Shelly Gregoire, president of Kellogg YAL—of failing to fill out the proper forms needed to “solicit” on campus.
KCC will only pay $15,000 of the settlement, while the rest will be covered by the college’s insurance policy. Gregoire will receive $7,000, with the remaining $48,000 going toward ADF attorneys’ fees.
In addition to the monetary awards, KCC also agreed to grant “provisional recognition” to the KCC YAL chapter for 12 months, and to revise its “Freedom of Expression Policy” to clarify that demonstrations such as the one that led to this case are permissible.
Eric Greene, KCC’s director of Public Information & Marketing, told Campus Reform that the settlement is not to be construed as an admission of any wrongdoing, adding that the school has already made some revisions to its policies regarding free speech.
According to the school’s website, the KCC Board of Trustees decided in August 2017 to adopt a new Freedom of Expression policy, which “makes it clear that any individual or group can engage in non-commercial expressive activities, including speeches, demonstrations, vigils, and the distribution of informational materials, in common areas on the campus during periods that the College facilities are open to the general public.”
The Board subsequently adopted “minor revisions” to that policy on January 17 as part of the settlement agreement.
“Once again, Alliance Defending Freedom successfully represented student victims of outrageous leftist abuses on campus,” said Morton Blackwell, President of the Leadership Institute. “This battle should not have had to be fought, but perhaps now fewer school administrators will try to trample free speech rights on campus.”
“It’s astounding that college officials would arrest people for distributing the Constitution, the very document that protects their right to free expression,” remarked ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham.
“All public colleges have a duty to protect and promote the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech,” he noted. “It’s a shame that it took this much time and a federal court’s rebuke for Kellogg Community College to come to its senses, realize that these arrests were wrong, and finally agree to respect students’ constitutionally protected freedoms.”
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