A criminal justice student at Rock Valley College in Illinois is suing his school over a bulletin board dispute, which he insists trampled on his free speech rights.
Dominic Celletti filed a lawsuit last month against the community college for not allowing him to post a flier featuring a call for students to read the U.S. Constitution, the Rock Valley River Times reports. Celletti said his fliers were taken down though, and he was told there were only a couple bulletin boards he was allowed to use.
According to the Student Press Law Center:
Celletti contacted Student Life administrators before putting the posters up, but was told he could only place posters on two boards in the Student Center because he was not affiliated with an organization. Celletti said that limited his poster’s exposure. Bulletin boards are available throughout the campus for club-sponsored fliers.
After his posters were removed, Celletti said he tried unsuccessfully to appeal to the Board of Trustees.
The lawsuit asks for an injunction to change the college’s policy on bulletin board use and asks for an apology from trustees, as well as Jack Becherer, the school’s president, and Quiana Preston, the school’s Student Life manager. Celletti also seeks $1 in damages from each.
“I tried working with these people, but they’re irrational," Celletti said. "They’re not pro-rights. Why would they fight someone for $3 and pay a hot shot attorney from Chicago to fight me for $3?"
The college does have a way to work around their bulletin board rule; a student like Celletti would just need approval by the Student Life manager, which Celletti was not able to receive.
Will Creeley, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s legal and public advocacy director, told the SPLC that RVC will need to prove it has followed a reasonable time, place and manner in limiting access to the boards.
Celletti is receiving legal aid from The Rutherford Institute.
“The college campus is the quintessential marketplace of ideas,” John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, said in a statement. “By removing the flyers posted by Dominic Celletti, college officials have completely undermined Celletti’s right to freedom of expression. This type of censorship is antithetical to free societies and more akin to authoritarian regimes.”
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