1.23.2010

TCC officials feared someone would bring gun during empty-holster protest


The article below is from Star-Telegram.

FORT WORTH — When Tarrant County College denied a student the right to stage an empty holster protest in April 2008 at the South Campus, officials feared someone would use the event to bring a weapon on campus.

"There was certainly the expectation that someone was going to show up with a gun in a holster," TCC interim Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley said under cross examination during a trial in federal court Thursday.

School officials had the concern even though they had no evidence that anyone would, and U.S. District Court Judge Terry Means told her — when she couldn’t provide any proof of why she thought someone planned to do so — that free speech cannot be limited on the basis of an "undifferentiated fear." "I can’t see any tangible basis for this fear," Means said.

Hadley’s testimony came in the third and final day of a trial concerning TCC’s free-speech restrictions and how administrators changed the student handbook after the lawsuit was filed and whether those changes were made properly.
The American Civil Liberties Union is asking that some sections of the handbook about protest policies be found unconstitutional and is seeking a permanent injunction against TCC prohibiting it from enforcing those policies. TCC denied empty-holster protests in April 2008 and April 2009, stating that they believed it could cause a disturbance on campus put students and the faculty at risk.

TCC again denied a request to wear the holsters in November, but students Clayton Smith and John Schwertz Jr. then filed suit with the assistance of the ACLU.Means issued a temporary restraining order allowing the protests to be held in public areas last November. The protests on the Northeast Campus in Hurst and South Campus in Fort Worth went off without incident.

The empty-holster protests began nationally after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.TCC officials also learned of graffiti in a campus bathroom threatening a shooting, and a teacher also reported hearing a student talking of re-enacting a Virginia Tech-style shooting in April 2008.

TCC rewrote some sections of its handbook and some of its policies, doing away with designated free-speech zones and statements that it would now allow protests to take place on campus without advance permission. Smith, who is attending the University of Texas at Arlington this spring, still plans to take part in empty-holster protests this April.

TCC rules place tighter restrictions on campus visitors than students.ACLU attorney David Broiles contends that the college is limiting the free expression of visitors to the campus, calling it unconstitutional. Both sides have until Jan. 28 to submit written closing arguments.They were told to focus on Smith’s status as a student and the restrictions TCC can impose on nonstudents to its campuses. The temporary restraining order, which permits empty-holster protests and allows Smith to participate, will remain in place until a final ruling is made

H/T to Fuzzys Dad at Musings of a vast right-winger

1 comment:

Bungalow Bill said...

That says a lot in the confidence of the college's administration in the instructors ability to teach critical thinking skills, you know.