- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A federal judge has ordered a California community college to abandon the speech code it used to censor the anti-communist fliers of conservative students.

In a preliminary injunction issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Jennifer L. Thurston struck down Clovis Community College’s policy against posting “inappropriate or offensive” materials on campus, ruling that was unconstitutionally vague and overly broad.

“Nothing in the [policy] resolves this ambiguity or contextual defines ‘offensive’ or ‘inappropriate’ such that students may reasonably understand that prohibition’s boundaries,” wrote Judge Thurston, a Biden appointee.

Anthony DeMaria, the public school’s attorney, confirmed that Clovis would change the policy to address the judge’s concerns.

“Clovis Community College fully supports the rights of all students to express their full opinions,” Mr. DeMaria told The Washington Times. “We are disappointed in the court’s ruling because we believe there were some legal principles that supported the original policy.” 

In a lawsuit filed Aug. 11, students Alejandro Flores, Daniel Flores and Juliette Colunga argued that the Fresno campus invented rules to suppress their opinions.

The complaint says school President Lori Bennett relocated their school-approved fliers associating communism with the “blind arrogance of the left” to a “free speech kiosk” in a remote part of campus.

In an email from November that the complaint quoted, Ms. Bennett informed the students that their fliers didn’t advertise a specific club event, despite no policy requiring that.

According to the complaint, the school also denied permission for the Young Americans for Freedom students to post anti-abortion fliers.

The fliers came from the student group’s parent organization, Young America’s Foundation.

Attorneys from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a nonpartisan free speech group, represented the three students in court.

“The court told Clovis what we’ve been telling them all along: You can’t censor students just because you don’t like their message,” FIRE attorney Jeff Zeman said in a statement.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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