Case Name: Polly Olsen v. Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College District Board
Type of Case: First Amendment
Court: E.D. Wisconsin District Court
Case Number: 18-CV-1366
Filed On: September 4, 2018
Current Status: Judge ruled NWTC violated Polly Olsen’s First Amendment rights
Polly Olsen is a student at Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College. She was handing out religious-themed cards on Valentine’s Day when she was confronted by campus security and told she couldn’t hand out valentines because she was violating school policy by “soliciting”. They told her she could only hand out valentines in the school’s tiny “free speech zone”, and only if she applied ahead of time and received permission. She was also told that her valentines could be offensive.
NWTC’s “public assembly policy” is blatantly unconstitutional. Public colleges cannot box free speech into one small area and declare the rest of the campus off limits to student speech. On behalf of Polly, we filed a lawsuit to get this policy changed and to uphold not only her First Amendment rights, but the rights of all public college students.
On summary judgment, Judge William Griesbach ruled that NWTC violated Polly’s First Amendment rights. He ruled that the school’s speech policy was unconstitutional because it restricted students’ freedom of expression to a tiny portion of the campus, and enjoined the school from enforcing the policy against students engaging in activity like Polly’s.
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