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Student to 8th Circuit: Arkansas State shouldn’t be let off the hook for free speech violation

ADF lawsuit prompted state to enact campus free speech law resulting in policy changes at ASU, but court left no consequences for officials who acted unconstitutionally

Thursday, Jun 18, 2020

WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys

WHAT: Available for media interviews after court hearing in Turning Point USA at Arkansas State University v. Rhodes

WHEN: Thursday, June. 18, after hearing, which begins 9:30 a.m. CDT; please e-mail to book a specific interview time

WHERE: Oral argument will be held by telephone conference: (888) 363-4749, access code 4423562

JONESBORO, Ark. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a student and student organization will be available for media interviews after a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit hearing Thursday in their lawsuit against Arkansas State University officials. Student Ashlyn Hoggard and the campus chapter of Turning Point USA, of which she is a member, asked the court in September to impose consequences on ASU officials for their violation of the student’s free speech rights under the First Amendment.

The hearing concerns the student and student organization’s request for the 8th Circuit to rule that university officials are not entitled to “qualified immunity” from the lawsuit.

“Speech isn’t free when students have to ask permission before they can speak anywhere on campus,” said ADF Legal Counsel Chris Schandevel, who will argue at the hearing. “Public university officials shouldn’t be allowed to get off scot free after they have violated someone’s freedoms protected by the First Amendment. While we’re pleased that our lawsuit prompted the state to enact good legislation protecting free speech on campus, and that legislation forced the university to update its policies, the university shouldn’t be permitted to skirt consequences for its actions.”

Arkansas State’s previous policies unconstitutionally gave university officials free reign to restrict the content and viewpoint of student speech, restricted most expressive activities to small zones on campus that totaled about one percent of the campus, and required advance permission for students to use the speech zones. ADF attorneys argue qualified immunity should not apply because the officials violated Hoggard’s and Turning Point USA’s First Amendment rights when the officials engaged in censorship in connection with bad policies.

“Free speech on campus is a no brainer—not just in tiny ‘speech zones,’ but everywhere on campus,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Public universities can’t function properly as the ‘marketplace of ideas’ when university officials muzzle student free speech and then walk away without any consequences. Although the university ultimately was forced to modify its policies, Ashlyn and Turning Point USA haven’t been vindicated for the violation of their constitutionally protected freedoms. That’s the injustice we’re asking the 8th Circuit to correct.”
  • One-page summary: Turning Point USA at Arkansas State University v. Rhodes
  • Pronunciation guide: Schandevel (SHAN-deh-vel), Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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