House Bill 1200, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Hobgood-Wilkes, would create the FORUM Act to expressly permit all forms of peaceful assembly, protests, speeches and guest speakers, distribution of literature, carrying signs, and circulating  petitions.

Schools would not be able to create specific “free speech zones” and they may not deny a religious, political, or ideological student organization any benefit or privilege available to any other student organization, or otherwise discriminate against such an organization, based on the expression of the organization.

This, unfortunately, is needed in Mississippi.

A former student at Jones County Junior College is suing the school for infringing on his free speech rights, and the U.S. Department of Justice is supporting his suit. 

Michael Brown was stopped twice by campus police for trying to inform students about the political club he was involved with, Young Americans for Liberty, without prior authorization from the school’s administration, according to the complaint filed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. 

Brown was stopped by campus officials early last year about an inflatable beach ball, known as a “free speech ball,” upon which students could write messages of their choice and again in the spring for polling students about marijuana legalization. 

An administrator told YAL that they weren’t permitted on campus since they hadn’t sought permission from the college.

The current regulations at JCJC require at least three days’ notice to administrators before “gathering for any purpose.” The student handbook also puts even more restrictions on college-connected student organizations, which must schedule their events through the vice president of student affairs. The school administration also reserves the right, according to the handbook, to not schedule a speaker or an activity.

The DOJ statement says that these restrictions operate as a prior restraint on student speech and contain no exception for individuals or small groups, and grant school officials unbridled discretion to determine about what students may speak.

MCPP has reviewed this legislation and finds that it is aligned with our principles and therefore should be supported. 

Read HB 1200.

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