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Parks v. The Members of the State Board of the Virginia Community College System

Description:  A Virginia Community College System speech policy required students to be part of a student organization before they could speak in the open areas of campus. Also, students could only speak in the campus areas that college officials designated, and the students had to register with the college four days in advance.


Friday, Jun 6, 2014

Attorney sound bites:  Travis Barham  |  David Hacker

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The Virginia Community College System consented to a court order Tuesday that prohibits it from enforcing unconstitutional speech policies and zones challenged by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a student. The policy changes, which VCCS agreed to make in April, affect all 23 of the system’s schools.

Under the new policy, students are no longer required to be part of a student organization before they can speak in the open areas of campus. Also, student free speech will no longer be limited to “free speech zones” designated by college officials, and students will no longer be required to register with their college four days in advance of engaging in free speech.

“Colleges should support--not censor--student speech. We commend the Virginia Community College System for revising its speech policy to align with what a marketplace of ideas should be,” said Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham. “The revised policies respect the rights of all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, to speak freely in the outdoor areas of campus, and students no longer have to jump through unconstitutional hoops to exercise the freedoms that the First Amendment protects.”

Last September, Thomas Nelson Community College prohibited Christian Parks from expressing his Christian beliefs in a large courtyard of the college. An officer from the college’s police department told him he must stop preaching because the content of his speech might offend someone. School officials then told Parks that his speech violated the Student Code of Conduct and VCCS policies.

“The decision of one student to take a stand has brought about greater freedom for students on 23 college campuses in Virginia,” added Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “We hope this case motivates others to take similar stands so that they and all Americans will be able to continue to benefit from the constitutional freedoms we have inherited and enjoy every day.”

Steve Taylor, one of more than 2,300 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, served as local counsel in the lawsuit, Parks v. The Members of the State Board of the Virginia Community College System, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
 
  • Pronunciation guide: Barham (BEHR'-um)
 
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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Previous News Releases


Legal Documents

Complaint: Parks v. The Members of the State Board of the Virginia Community College System
Consent order: Parks v. The Members of the State Board of the Virginia Community College System

Related Resources

ABOUT Travis C. Barham

Travis C. Barham serves as senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, where he plays a key role with the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. He focuses his legal efforts on preserving and reclaiming religious freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of association for students and faculty at universities throughout the country. His work has been instrumental in securing several strategic appellate court victories, including a public university free speech victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2021. Barham earned his Juris Doctor from Washington and Lee University School of Law in 2006, where he graduated summa cum laude. Barham is a member of the bars of Georgia and Arizona. He is also admitted to practice before multiple federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.