Modesto Junior College walks back comments regarding student prohibited from distributing copies of the U.S. Constitution on campus

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, September 23, 2013

Modesto Junior College is walking back from its decision last week to prevent a student from handing out free copies of the United States Constitution on National Constitution Day last week.

The school posted the following message on its Facebook page last week shortly after FIRE broke the story:

The Yosemite Community College District’s (YCCD) colleges have free speech areas on campus for activities such as distributing materials on campus. In addition, people can distribute material in the areas generally available to students and the community as long as they don’t “disrupt the orderly operation of the college.” In the case of the YouTube video, it did not appear that the student was disrupting the orderly operation of the college. Therefore, we are looking into the matter. The administration of the YCCD supports the peaceful distribution of the Constitution and other materials on campus, which is why our colleges support Constitution Day with activities each year.

Robert Van Tuinen, a student at the college, had handed out copies of the Constitution last Tuesday when a campus police officer told him he needed get prior permission to do so. The cop then directed him to the campus’ Student Development Office to fill out the necessary paperwork, despite Van Tuinen’s pleas that it was his First Amendment right to distribute the copies. The Student Development Office then told him that not only would he be restricted to passing out copies of the Constitution in a tiny area known as a “free speech zone,” but that he would also have to schedule his “free speech” exercise days or weeks in advance.

“The idea that I have to ask for permission to commit the act of free speech and that I have to go to a certain area to have the free speech and discuss with my fellow students, it’s a little ridiculous and it’s not free speech,” Van Tuinen said on Fox and Friends Sunday.

“This isn’t a huge issue that students can’t engage in free speech and talk to each other,” he added.

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