Court ruling vindicates LA student who sued college for curbing his free speech

The Los Angeles college student who sued his school after they curbed his free speech right to pass out copies of the Constitution was vindicated in a California court this week after a judge ruled that he was well within the boundaries of the First Amendment.

Pierce College student Kevin Shaw, 27, filed a lawsuit in March against the Los Angeles Community College District after he was barred from passing out copies of the historic document because he wasn’t within the school’s designated “free speech zone” — a tiny parcel about the size of three parking spaces. Officials for the school maintained that the minuscule area provided was constitutional.

But the judge rejected that argument and said the open spaces of public colleges like Pierce are traditional public forums — regardless of the school system's regulations.

Shaw said he was excited over the decision. “I feel vindicated,” he told Fox News. “I had faith in the courts, but the process was long. I started to worry about what the outcome may have been.”

"We do not comment on pending litigation,” Yusef Robb, spokesman for the Los Angeles Community College District said in a statement to Fox News. “We are fully committed to free expression on our campuses. As a community college district, promoting the free exchange of ideas and knowledge is at the core of what we do, every day."

It was just before the general election in November 2016 when Shaw attempted to distribute Spanish-language copies of the Constitution during a recruiting drive for his student group, a campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, on the main quad. A Pierce administrator told him he could not distribute literature outside the designated zone.

Shaw says he was also told that he would have to fill out a permit application to use the zone and would be asked to leave campus if he refused to comply.

“When I attempted to hand out copies of the Constitution that day, my only intention was to get students thinking about our founding principles and to inspire discussion of liberty and free speech,” Shaw said in a statement to Fox News last March. “I had no idea I would be called upon to defend those very ideals against Pierce’s unconstitutional campus policies.”

He added, “This fight is about a student’s right to engage in free thinking and debate while attending college in America.”

Shaw said that since the lawsuit was filed, he has refrained from handing out more copies of the Constitution but was supporting his group's chapter in other ways. He also said that the original incident had inspired him to pursue political office. He’s currently campaigning for assemblyman in the 38th District of Los Angeles County — while still attending Pierce.

“This lawsuit got me more interested in protecting people’s rights,” he said. “So I decided to run for office.”

Elections will be held this coming June.