Jones County Junior College (JCJC) in Ellisville, Mississippi, settled a lawsuit last week with former student Michael Brown, who sued JCJC last year after the school threatened students with arrest for exercising their First Amendment rights on campus. The college also agreed to pay $40,000 for attorneys’ fees and damages.
Brown’s lawsuit, which was filed with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has also resulted in policy changes at the college that will protect the speech rights of all JCJC students, announced FIRE in a statement.
“I am pleased that Jones College was willing to work in good faith to align their policies with the First Amendment rights guaranteed to all of us, especially students on their campus,” said Brown. “Fighting for this reform is important to me because we all must have the ability to speak freely, otherwise how are we any better than other nations and regimes that restrict what their citizens may say?”
Last year, the school called the police on Brown while he was recruiting members for his student group, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), as administrators at the publicly-funded college wanted him to get the college’s permission before engaging in speech activity on campus.
The student was later taken into the police station, where the chief of campus police Stan Livingston told him that he is “smarter than that,” as in that Brown should have known better than to violate school policy by exercising his First Amendment rights without first asking for permission from the college.
As part of Wednesday’s settlement, JCJC agreed to implement a policy allowing students to express themselves without permission, said FIRE, adding that the policy also adopts language from the “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression” at the University of Chicago, joining 77 other institutions nationwide in adopting this principled statement on free expression.
The college also agreed to pay $40,000 for attorneys’ fees and damages.
“We’re proud of Mike for standing up for his rights and the speech rights of all students at Jones College,” said FIRE Director of Litigation Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon.
“At a time when students at 9 in 10 colleges across the country forfeit their rights under unconstitutional speech codes, we commend Jones College for joining the ranks of Chicago Statement institutions committed to providing students ‘the broadest possible latitude to speak,'” she added.