Va. Community College System to Pay $25K Over Speech Policy

A Thomas Nelson Community College student filed a lawsuit against the Virginia Community College system alleging infringement of his rights to free speech and religious expression.

HAMPTON, Va. – The state of Virginia has agreed to pay a $25,000 settlement after a student filed a lawsuit against the Virginia Community College System over a policy that restricted students’ freedom of speech.

In March, Christian Parks, a Thomas Nelson Community College student, filed the lawsuit against the college system alleging infringement of his rights to free speech and religious expression, Hampton Roads reports.

Authorities twice stopped Parks from preaching about his evangelical Christian faith in a central courtyard, with police telling the student that he was violating statewide policy governing campus demonstrations.

Adopted in 1968, the policy only allows organizations recognized by the college to sponsor demonstrations in designated areas. Additionally, the groups would have to register and triplicate with the president’s officer four days in advance of the event.

State officials, who decided not to defend the policy in court, suspended the rule in April. The college system has now proposed a decree declaring outdoor areas of campuses as “venues for free expression.” VCCS also promises never to put unreasonable limits on student speech and allows colleges to place reasonable restrictions on expressive activity, such as time, place and manner.

The $25,000 settlement will be used to pay damages and attorneys’ fees.

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Tagged with: Lawsuits

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