Mississippi College Sued for ‘Muzzling’ Free Speech
Mississippi-based Jones County Junior College is being sued by a current student for denying him free speech rights.
Mike Brown, who is a member of a campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, along with Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) filed a lawsuit against the college for denying students their First Amendment Rights.
The lawsuit alleges the school officials of reporting Brown and another fellow student to campus police. The students were taken to the police chief’s office when they were spotted holding a sign designed to poll students on the legalization of recreational marijuana.
The chief said the students should have got an administrative approval before exercising their First Amendment rights.
“Some people get in trouble for smoking weed, but at Jones College, I got in trouble just for trying to talk about it,” said Brown. “College is for cultivating thought and learning and encouraging civil discourse with your peers. That’s not what’s happening at Jones College.”
Afterward, Brown left the college and enrolled in a program at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Earlier, the FIRE had written a letter to Jones College President Jesse Smith extending its help in bringing the school’s policies at par with the First Amendment rights. To date, the college hasn’t responded to the offer.
“Students shouldn’t have to seek permission — then wait three or more days — before they can exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, FIRE’s director of litigation. “If a ball threatens the administration so much that they call campus police, no speech is safe at Jones College.”
Campus free speech has become a topic of a national debate over the last few months. In March, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to enforce free speech on college campuses across the country which allows 12 federal agencies to withhold federal research or education grants, excluding federal student aid funding, from colleges that practice censorship.
In April, the Texas House of Representatives passed the House Bill 2100 to protect free speech at all higher education institutes within the state. Governors in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Iowa have signed similar bills into laws in their respective states in the past as well.