Last September, college junior Robert Van Tuinen decided that since it was Constitution day, he would hand out copies of the constitution on campus. The 26-year-old army veteran didn’t see anything wrong with this, but Modesto Junior College did, and campus police approached him, asking him to stop handing out the documents.
The incident was caught on video. Van Tuinen can be seen being questioned by a campus police officer who tells him that he can’t pass out the documents because, “there are rules.” Van Tuinen asks the officer to tell him what the rules are while explaining that he is planning to start an organization called Young Americans for Liberty.
“That’s fine, but if you’re going to start an organization like that you have to go through the rigamarole,” responded the officer.
"It was a tense situation," said Van Tuinen to Fox News. "To be told I can't do something as basic as handing out the Constitution was frustrating."
Van Tuinen was taken to an administrative office where a woman told him that there is a designated area on campus for free speech demonstrations, and said if he wanted to hand out the flyers, he had to do it there. That area was already occupied at the time.
Now, Van Tuinen and Modesto Junior College have reached a $50,000 settlement after the student filed suit against them. In addition to paying him $50,000, the school will be changing their free speech policy going forward. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, represented Van Tuinen in the case.
“I am thrilled with this outcome and I am grateful to my attorneys and FIRE for securing this agreement,” van Tuinen said. “Now the Modesto Junior College community and I will be able to engage in free discussion on campus. I encourage students at other schools with restrictive free speech policies to stand up for their rights.”