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Sinapi-Riddle v. Citrus Community College District

From July 2014 to December 2014
Citrus Community College (Public college or university)
Glendora, CA, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle
    Student
    Other

    Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle was a student at Citrus Community College and a member of the campus chapter of "Young Americans for Liberty."

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Recognized student group event
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration not protective of speech
    University administration changes university policy as a consequence of event
    Litigation
  • Incident Status:
    Settled
  • No protest Occured
  • Did not involve Speech Codes

Summary

The plaintiff, Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle, was a student at Citrus Community College and a member of the school’s chapter of “Young Americans for Liberty.” As a member of the group, Plaintiff was attempting to gather signatures urging the student government to condemn spying by the National Security Agency, within the school’s designated Free Speech Zone. After having left the Free Speech Zone briefly for other purposes, Plaintiff walked past another student who appeared interested in his message and began discussing the petition with them. During this discussion, a school administrator exited a nearby building, and upon seeing this interaction told Plaintiff that he was not allowed to engage in petitioning outside of the Free Speech Zone and warned him that the administrator had the authority to remove him from campus for violating school policy. During a later event in the Free Speech Zone, the plaintiff joined other students in protest against a proposed amendment to the student government constitution, utilizing a poster that included references to Communist Party and the television show “My Little Pony.” A school administrator, upon seeing this poster, told the protesters that the poster violated copyright laws and threatened that the college would sue the students if they did not remove it, despite the fact that the college did not own any copyright to either image utilized. Sinapi-Riddle brought suit against the school district and administrators, alleging that the following policies were facially invalid as unconstitutional violations of plaintiff’s free speech rights: (1) the policy restricting expressive activity to the “Free Speech Zone,” (2) the college’s Harassment Policy, which he alleged granted a College administrator full discretion to define what constituted harassment and provided no First Amendment protections, and (3) the policy which plaintiff alleged required student organizations to receive administration approval for all expressive events besides regularly scheduled internal meetings. The plaintiff also alleged as-applied violation of his free speech rights under the policy mandating a “Free Speech Zone” and the policy requiring administrative approval for expressive activity by a student organization. The two sides ultimately reached a settlement, under which the school district agreed to pay Sinapi-Riddle $110,000 and to institute new procedures for handling campus speech.