Calif. college settles student lawsuit, will comply with First Amendment

In a settlement, Citrus must make all public spaces free speech areas.

A student at Citrus College sued his school after he was threatened by the school's administration when he petitioned his peers outside of the school's unconstitutional free speech zones.

The student was also awarded $110K to help pay for legal fees.

Citrus College make all public spaces on its campus free speech areas after a settling a lawsuit with a student.

On Sept., 17, Constitution Day, Citrus student Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle was gathering signatures to petition his student government to pass a resolution condemning the National Security Agency for its warrantless spying of American citizens. When Sinapi-Riddle walked outside of the free-speech zone, an administrator confronted him and threatened to kick him off campus unless he returned to the designated speech zone.

Sinapi-Riddle, a sophomore computer science major, filed a lawsuit against Citrus in July as part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) “Stand Up For Speech” litigation project.

According to the settlement, Citrus has agreed to make all public spaces free speech areas and to clarify the institution’s harassment policy in a way that makes it more consistent with the First Amendment. Citrus also suspended a 14-day waiting period for activities to be approved. According to Sinapi-Riddle, the 14-day waiting period caused his club, Young Americans for Liberty, to drop events from its calendar.

Citrus will also pay $110,000 to Sinapi-Riddle for his attorney fees.

“I’m glad this is finally over and Citrus can no longer violate the rights of its students,” Sinapi-Riddle told Campus Reform. "I look forward to moving on from this and encourage other students to fight for their rights.”

While members of Citrus’s student government declined to comment to Campus Reform, other Citrus students expressed relief over their peer’s victory.

“I think it’s great he won. The fact that he was able to contest his rights and fight back is admirable. Anyone else would have just taken orders and done nothing about it,” Melissa Samaniego, a sophomore music technology major, told Campus Reform.

The Citrus lawsuit was the second victory of the day for FIRE. Students at the University of Hawaii-Hilo also won a settlement with their school over unconstitutional free speech zones.

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