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Georgia college campus speech court ruling flawed, group says in appeal

The attorneys who represented two students who sued Georgia Gwinnett College over its campus speech guidelines filed an appeal Monday of a judge’s ruling in the case, saying the decision didn’t consider whether the college’s rules violated the students’ constitutionally-protected freedoms.

The Alliance Defending Freedom sued the college in 2016, arguing student free speech rights were violated. One student, Chike Uzuegbunam said a college official told him he couldn’t distribute fliers sharing his Christian faith where he was standing on campus. The college had two “free speech expression areas,” which his attorneys described as “tiny.” Another student, Joseph Bradford, who also wanted to preach on campus, joined the case as a plaintiff.

VIDEO: Previous coverage on this issue

What it does: provide for the establishment of free speech policies for institutions of the university system. (Erica A. Hernandez/AJC STAFF)

U.S. District Court Judge Eleanor Ross last month ruled in favor of Georgia Gwinnett College’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the college had adequately resolved the main issues in the case by revising its policy concerning the process of how and where students and groups can speak on its campus.

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The Alliance Defending Freedom disputed the decision.

“The First Amendment guarantees every student’s freedom of speech and religion. The district court clarified what Georgia Gwinnett College refused to make clear: that its students have the right to speak in any outdoor area of campus. That’s good news, but it doesn’t vindicate our clients’ constitutional rights,” Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Travis Barham said in a news release. “The district court ignored how GGC officials repeatedly censored Chike, and these officials should not get off scot-free for creating and enforcing policies that trampled students’ constitutionally protected freedoms.”

The appeal was filed with the 11th Circuit of the U.S. District Court of Appeals.

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