COURT: NJ University Must Pay Conservative Students $42K for Restricting Protest Rights

'Montclair ... placed burdensome restraints on speech and allowed university officials to selectively enforce those restraints against groups they didn’t like...'

Following a federal lawsuit, Montclair State University in New Jersey must dismantle its Bias Education Response Taskforce and restore free-speech rights to conservatives on campus, the Alliance Defending Freedom reported.

“Universities cannot arbitrarily pick and choose which students can speak freely on campus,” ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross said in response to the lawsuit’s settlement.

Young Americans for Liberty, with ADF’s legal team, sued Montclair State University for restricting speech in public spaces, punishing and intimidating conservatives groups, and placing student groups in an “unconstitutional hierarchical class system,” with anti-Marxist organizations at the bottom.

“Montclair State University’s previous policy placed burdensome restraints on speech and allowed university officials to selectively enforce those restraints against groups they didn’t like,” Ross said.

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The case, Young Americans for Liberty at Montclair State University v. The Trustees of Montclair State University, started with a mock protest in 2019.

Student Mena Botros and two others dressed in orange jumpsuits to look like convicts, stood in an outdoor area, and held signs that ironically expressed their support for gun-free zones.

The university did not like the insinuation that gun-free zones aid criminals and endanger law-abiding citizens, so a campus police officer made them leave.

The officer told the students that they must receive permission two weeks before speaking or protesting on campus and that the university’s administrators would tell them when and where they could use their truncated First Amendment rights.

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The lawsuit’s settlement forces the university to drop the two-week waiting period, recognize all on-campus student groups, and fund them equitably.

The university must also reimburse Young Americans for Liberty $42,000 for attorneys’ fees and damages.

“Campus administrators and members of an unconstitutional Bias Education Response Taskforce are not allowed to dictate what can and can’t be said on a taxpayer-funded public university campus,” said JP Kirby, YAL’s director of free speech.

“I’m proud of the YAL members at Montclair State for standing up for their constitutional rights and for this win, which allows all people the freedom to express their beliefs and be heard on campus.”

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