The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Judge says no to TCC protest ban

By Shelly Williams/editor-in-chief

U.S. District Judge Terry Means ruled that TCC violated the First Amendment rights of two students by prohibiting their requests to hold an empty holster protest on school grounds last fall and limiting students who invite outside organizations onto campuses.

In his opinion released March 15, Means said many of the challenges mounted by students Clayton Smith and John Schwertz Jr. to TCC’s rules and regulations on speech are not justifiable.

“However, the disruptive activities provision, as applied to student SCCC [Students for Concealed Carry on Campus] members to prevent them from wearing empty holsters on campus or in the classroom, violates the students’ First Amendment right to free speech,” he wrote in the opinion.

The lawsuit was filed after TCC denied the request of the SCCC to stage an empty-holster protest last November on NE Campus. Smith and Schwertz gathered help from the American Civil Liberties Union to protect their rights to protest in court.

“Additionally, the co-sponsorship provision is overly broad and, thus, violates the First Amendment on its face,” Means said.

Means ordered that Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley and other TCCD officials, employees and agents cannot prohibit Smith, Schwertz Jr. or

any TCC student from wearing empty holsters in classrooms, on campus streets and sidewalks and in the campus outdoor common areas such as lawns and plazas during the protest.

The court also ordered that TCC be banned from enforcing the co-sponsorship guidelines in the student handbook.

TCC lawyer Angela Robinson said the ruling means students, as a form of protest, can wear empty holsters into not only the common areas but also into the hallways and classrooms.

“The college’s focus on the case was, of course, on the safety of the students and the faculty and the other people on campus,” she said.

“The plaintiff’s focus was on the First Amendment, and I think the court — in its 56-page order — tried to balance those two. I think based on the Court’s ruling, Tarrant County College is going to have to again re-look at their student handbook, and at their policy and regulation manual, and possibly look at making some changes to both of those manuals.”

Smith said he found out about the ruling in an e-mail from the ACLU and was excited that the case ruled in his favor and that students are allowed to participate in the empty holster protest on campuses.

“Any organization can now speak freely anywhere they want on campus now,” Smith said.

“They’re not confined to free speech zones anymore. So it doesn’t matter what their message is or what the organization is. They’ll be able to express their opinion.”

The next empty holster protest will take place the week of April 5-10. Smith said he thinks the protest will go well, and he doesn’t expect any issues.

 

 

 

 

 

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