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Young Americans for Liberty at Kellogg Community College v. Kellogg Community College

From September 2016 to March 2018
Kellogg Community College (Public college or university)
Battle Creek, MI, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • Brandon Withers
    Student
    Other

    Brandon Withers and Michelle Gregoire were both students at Kellogg Community College and members of the group "Young Americans for Liberty."

  • Michelle Gregoire
    Student
    Other

    Brandon Withers and Michelle Gregoire were both students at Kellogg Community College and members of the group "Young Americans for Liberty."

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Other student-organized event
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration not protective of speech
    University administration invoked formal speech code in response to incident
    University administration changes university policy as a consequence of event
    Campus police
    Other Law Enforcement
    Litigation
  • Incident Status:
    Settled
  • No protest Occured
  • Was Speech Code incident

Summary

Michelle Gregoire and Brandon Withers—two students at Kellogg Community College (“KCC”)—were distributing pocket-size copies of the United States Constitution on campus. They stood in a generally accessible area and were not blocking student foot-traffic, sidewalks, access to buildings, or pursuing students who did not wish to converse with them. Regardless, Gregoire and Withers were approached by school administrators who ordered them to put away their table and stop passing out literature. The administrators based this order on KCC’s purported “speech policies” which, among other things, required students wishing to engage in First Amendment activities to obtain a permit from the school. The administrators also relied on an unwritten school policy that only allowed First Amendment activities in one location on campus—the free speech zone. After informing the administrators that they wished to continue exercising their First Amendment rights, Gregoire, Withers, and an associate were arrested, jailed, and charged with trespassing. Although the school quickly dropped these charges, the school’s speech policies remained in full force. In response, Gregoire and Withers filed a complaint in the Western District of Michigan alleging that (1) the policies, and (2) the school’s treatment of Gregoire and Withers, violated the First Amendment. According to their Complaint, KCC’s policy allegedly granted administration officials essentially unbridled discretion to grant or deny permits based on the content or viewpoint of student speech if the speech did not “support the mission of [KCC] or the mission of a recognized college entity or activity.” Gregoire and Withers requested declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief from KCC’s various speech policies. For the next eight months, the school refused to change any of its policies. However, at a hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction the judge clearly expressed his view that the school’s policies appeared to be unconstitutional. In response, KCC made some small changes to its policies that were unsatisfactory to the plaintiffs. During further settlement negotiations, the college and plaintiffs agreed to more extensive changes and a payment of $55,000 to the plaintiffs for damages and attorneys’ fees. Pursuant to that settlement agreement, KCC eliminated multiple policies including its policy requiring students to obtain permission before engaging in expressive activity anywhere on campus.