Fla. college ends prior review

FLORIDA ‘ Prior approval will no longer be the norm for speech on the Miami-Dade Community College campus. The college reached a settlement with students on May 24 that allows anyone to distribute literature anywhere on the campus without prior approval by the college.

Five students at Miami-Dade sued the college after they were detained and threatened with arrest while distributing business cards with a telephone number for a local church ministry. In their lawsuit the students claimed campus security guards told them they could not distribute the information on the college’s property without consent from the administration.

Miami-Dade’s old policy required anyone who wanted to hand out literature on campus to get approval from the administration. To be approved, interested parties had to fill out an application and submit a copy of their handouts seven days in advance. If approved, distribution was limited to a designated table on the campus.

A new procedure for distribution was put in place through the agreement. Under the new guidelines:

‘ Literature does not have to be pre-approved by the administration;

‘ Any individual who wishes to distribute more than 10 pieces of material on the same day must, prior to distribution, submit an activities form to the college at least 24 hours before distribution;

‘ Literature can be distributed at certain designated areas, tables or in public areas that do not impede the normal flow of traffic;

‘ Any person or group distributing literature may not harass, stalk or force their literature upon anyone;

‘ Literature may be distributed when campus is open for instruction;

‘ The campus will establish guidelines to address situations in which a person or groups is ordered to cease distribution.

The Liberty Counsel, a religious civil-liberties group, represented the students.

CASE: Cumana v. Bucelo, Case No. 99-2107-CIV-JORDAN (S.D.Fla. May 24, 2002) (consent decree and order of settlement)