DES MOINES, Iowa – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have settled a lawsuit with officials at Iowa State University, bringing an end to unconstitutional policies at the school which expressly warn that “engaging in First Amendment protected speech activities” may be punished as “harassment.” On behalf of a student, ADF attorneys challenged the policies, with which the university required students to certify compliance before they could graduate.
“The First Amendment requires America’s public colleges and universities to recognize the constitutionally protected freedoms of all students,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “We commend the university for agreeing to correct its policies so that students no longer have to give up free speech in order to graduate.”
ADF attorneys filed suit against Iowa State officials in October of last year and asked for a court order to strike down the unconstitutional policies and halt their enforcement. University officials had confirmed that if student Robert Dunn, who leads Iowa State’s Young Americans for Freedom student group, or any other student declined to certify that he would comply with the university’s policies, his graduation could be placed on “hold.”
The policies, which concerned student behavior and expression, specified that they “may cover those activities which, although not severe, persistent, or pervasive enough to meet the legal definition of harassment, are unacceptable…” and explained that even “First Amendment protected speech activities” may constitute harassment “depending on the circumstances,” including whether other students believe the speech is not “legitimate,” not “necessary,” or lacks a “constructive purpose.” Violation of the policies could result in expulsion.
“Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, commissioners, and voters,” Mattox explained. “That’s why it’s so important that public universities model the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students, and why it should disturb everyone when any university or college communicates to a generation that the Constitution doesn’t matter.”
The settlement agreement reached with university officials in Dunn v. Leath was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Central Division. Timm W. Reid of Des Moines is local counsel for Dunn and one of nearly 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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