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Columbus School Violated Rights Of Leafleters, Law Professor Says

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A professor of law at The Ohio State University says leafleters were denied their First Amendment rights when they were asked to leave the public sidewalk outside a Columbus City school. Now that professor has spoken up about the issue at a board recent board meeting.

Ohio State law professor Ruth Colker says that on two occasions a small group gathered peacefully on the sidewalk outside an elementary school in Columbus. They assembled there in response to an alleged report of a parent who had been picked up by ICE agents and deported after dropping their child off at school.

As parents came to pick up their kids, members of the group passed out fliers in Spanish on immigration rights with a list of local legal resources. On both occasions, however, the school's principle told them to leave and threatened to call security.

Colker says this was a clear violation of the constitution.

“There's a Supreme Court case that says that the public sidewalk adjacent to a public school is what we call a public forum," Colker says.

Colker says that not allowing people to spread information there was a violation their First Amendment right to free speech.

A tape of the incident reveals that the principle was mainly concerned about the content of the fliers, Colker says. But in order to rightfully dismiss the group, Colker arguesthe school would have to develop a leafleting policy—currently they do not have one. 

The professor says she has no plans to bring a lawsuit against the district; her only objective is to help them develop such a policy that upholds constitutional rights

In response, the district says they are aware that sidewalks are public forum and that this incident is a great opportunity to reiterate that to their staff. The district says they have not yet agreed on a date to meet with Colker.