Pomona College recognizes free speech rights of pro-life students

Two pro-life students conducting an orderly challenge to the ideas of a Planned Parenthood representative were banned from campus. Protests of their treatment led Pomona to lift the ban in recognition of laws guaranteeing free speech rights that students would enjoy off campus. -DB

CalAware Today
March 12, 2009

FREE SPEECH — After strong protest from students, faculty and alumni, Pomona College has withdrawn its ban of two pro-life students from campus, imposed last week after they videotaped the question-and-answer session during a Planned Parenthood representative’s talk and asked her tough questions about recent controversies, Christian Newswire reports.

The pro-life students, David Daleiden, 20, and Kyle Kinneberg, 21, are members of the youth-led right-to-life advocacy group Live Action. They both attend Claremont McKenna College, part of the Claremont College Consortium together with Pomona and three other undergraduate institutions.

A hand-delivered letter from Pomona’s Dean of Women Marcelle Holmes notified the students of the ban, claiming their videotaping had been “against college policy.” But Daleiden, President of Live Action’s Claremont chapter and Director of Research for the national organization, said Pomona never produced the specific policy they said his group had violated, and that he and Kinneberg were denied their due process rights under the Claremont Colleges’ Policy on Demonstrations.

“When alumni found out about this Orwellian situation, they were outraged,” explained Daleiden. “Pomona accused us of conspiring to ‘disrupt the proceedings, intimidate participants, and chill the free exchange of ideas,'” Daleiden said. “But nothing could be farther from the truth. We were entirely respectful when we asked our questions — as our video shows.”

In rescinding the ban, Pomona officials may have been influenced not only by campus community protests but by provisions of the Leonard Law, which gives students disciplined for speech that would be protected off campus the right to sue—and collect attorneys fees if successful—to have the discipline withdrawn. That law applies to both public and private colleges and universities.