Three YAF student leaders filed the lawsuit in federal court in California on Thursday, alleging Clovis Community College administrators violated their First Amendment rights by ordering the removal of flyers that promoted the conservative national organization’s Freedom Week in November 2021.
“Our goal with this lawsuit is to ensure that everyone has the right to free expression,” Clovis YAF chapter Chairman Alejandro Flores said in a statement. “When administrators pick and choose what speech is acceptable, you no longer have free speech.”
The court complaint also alleged administrators violated students’ freedom of expression in December 2021 when the college denied the students permission to post anti-abortion flyers on campus interior bulletin boards and instead limited their display to an approved “free speech kiosk.”
The lawsuit, filed by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, lists Clovis Community College President Lori Bennett, Vice President of Student Services Marco De La Garza, Dean of Student Services Gurdeep Sihota Hebert, and Senior Student Services Program Specialist Patrick Stumpf as defendants.
“Free speech is under attack on campuses across the nation, and the recent, improper action by Clovis Community College administrators is another disappointing example,” stated Young America’s Foundation President Governor Scott Walker. “The school’s leadership violated the First Amendment by stifling and censoring conservative students’ free speech rights. Young America’s Foundation is proud to partner with FIRE on this important lawsuit, putting schools nationwide on notice: conservatives will not be bullied into silence and submission.”
Emails obtained by FIRE via a public record request show a Clovis administrator offering to “gladly” remove the flyers following complaints.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for the costs incurred from producing the flyers, in addition to punitive damages against the Clovis Community College administrators “for their knowing and willful violation” of the students’ constitutional rights.
An injunction barring the college from implementing a club flyer policy is also being sought.
“Clovis tried to put up barriers against our ideas because administrators didn’t like them,” Flores said. “But that’s the opposite of what a college should do. Our college should encourage us to discuss and sharpen our ideas, not shut down the conversation.”
Clovis Community College did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.