Campus Free Speech

Ohio College Settles Lawsuit, Dumps "Speech Code"

Heard of the first amendment?


Ohio's Sinclair Community College (SCC) has settled a First Amendment lawsuit by revising an unconstitutional speech code that prohibited students and visitors from holding signs on campus. The plaintiffs' attorneys confirmed this week that the terms of the settlement have been accepted by the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

The lawsuit, filed last July on behalf of students Ruth Deddens and Ethel Borel-Donohue and invited speaker Bryan Kemper, director of Youth Outreach for Priests for Life, was prompted by SCC's brazen violation of the First Amendment at a campus religious freedom rally held on June 8, 2012. At the rally, police officers forced event attendees and participants to put away their handheld signs communicating the protesters' message, citing the college's speech code. 

Incredibly, SCC President Steven Lee Johnson told the Dayton Daily News that the ban on signs was necessary because of "safety and security" concerns. Invoking the tragic Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, Johnson said that banning signs was justified because signs could be used as weapons, telling the Daily News that the restriction "has nothing to do with what was printed on those objects, but what those objects could be used for."