Student Reaches $900,000 Settlement with Ga. University

Hayden Barnes won his constitutional rights case after being expelled by Valdosta State University in 2007.

A student’s federal lawsuit alleging his former university violated his freedom of speech was settled out of court July 24 for $900,000.

Hayden Barnes alleged in 2007 that he was expelled from Valdosta State University for criticizing the school’s construction of two parking structures. The lawsuit was filed against the university, the Board of Regents and then-president Ronald Zaccari, who supported the construction.

Barnes protested the parking garages and made a Facebook post critical of the construction project, which the school labeled a threatening document, according to Barnes was also deemed a threat to the school.

The incident began years of court disputes that started with Barnes being awarded $50,000 in 2013 when a court found that the university had violated his due process rights. Then this year a U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of Barnes’ freedom of speech case.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, helped Barnes with his case.

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