Turning Point USA sues Arkansas State over speech zones

December 14, 2017 GMT

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — A right-wing political group is suing Arkansas State University, alleging the school severely limits free speech on its campus.

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of student Ashlyn Hoggard and conservative group Turning Point USA, the Jonesboro Sun reported . Hoggard set up a table at the university in October hoping to generate interest in forming a campus chapter of Turning Point USA, the lawsuit says, but an administrator told her to stop speaking to students citing the university’s speech zone policy.


The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the policy, which dates to 1998 and sets times and places for speeches and demonstrations, distributions of written material and marches. The speech zones are typically available between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and usage must be scheduled in advance. The lawsuit says the zones comprise a total area of about 1 percent of campus.

“Because the mission of Arkansas State University is education, the campus of Arkansas State University is not a public forum open for assembly and expression of free speech as are the public streets, sidewalks and parks,” the policy states.

Hoggard tried to reserve a table in the student union but was denied because only registered student organizations can reserve tables in that area, the lawsuit says. She set up a table outside the student union the next day before an administrator told her to leave the area.

The suit alleged the school violated Hoggard and Turning Point USA’s free speech and due process rights.

“Arkansas State’s speech policies contain provisions that the courts have repeatedly struck down as unconstitutional at other schools,” said Tyson Langhofer, one of the attorneys who filed the suit. “The university can demonstrate its dedication to the free exchange of ideas by modifying its policies to comport with the First Amendment.”

University System General Counsel Brad Phelps said the allegations have no merit.

“Arkansas State is committed to the First Amendment with policies and procedures that are designed to further that right and not restrict it,” Phelps said.


Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com