Do school policies violate First Amendment?

Photo Courtesy of Sophia Trinh

Recently at Seattle Central, students and administrators clashed as a proposal was brought to the table that would limit student protests to only certain times and places on campus. Now at Bellevue College, students have realized that we also have policies in place in regards to protesting on campus. Some are upset by the rules, saying that they interfere with our First Amendment rights.

Interestingly enough, Bellevue College has policies very similar to Seattle Central.  According to BC’s policy 6120 concerning protesting on campus, “the purpose of these time, place and manner regulations is to establish procedures and reasonable controls for the use of college facilities for both non-college and college groups…to balance the college’s responsibility to fulfill its mission as a state educational institution of Washington with the interests of…groups who are interested in using the campus for purposes of constitutionally protected speech, assembly or expression.”

The list of BC’s policies are as follows:

Non-college groups that intend to be on campus to engage in First Amendment activities (hereinafter “the event”) shall provide notice to the campus public safety department no later than 48 hours prior to the event along with the following information: [This information includes the name, address, and purpose of the organization, as well as when and where they would like to meet on campus.]

Signs shall be no larger than three feet by five feet (3’ x 5’) and no individual may carry more than one sign.

If more than 30 people are expected to participate, the event must be held in the southern courtyard, just north of the Carlson Theater.

The use of sound amplification devices is limited to the limited public forum area and is used at a volume which does not disrupt or disturb the normal use of classrooms, offices or laboratories or any previously scheduled college event or activity.

Unscheduled events are permitted so long as the event does not interfere with any other function occurring at the facility.

College group events shall not last longer than eight hours from beginning to end.  Non-college events shall not last longer than five hours from beginning to end.

Information may be distributed as long as it is not obscene or libelous or does not advocate unlawful conduct.  The sponsoring organization is encouraged, but not required, to include its name and address on the distributed information. To avoid excessive littering of the campus and/or greatly increased work requirements for college physical plant employees, groups are asked to cooperate with the college in limiting the distribution of information leaflets or pamphlets to the limited public forum site.

Speech that does no more than propose a commercial transaction shall not occur in connection with the event.

The limited public forum used by the group should be cleaned up and left in its original condition and may be subject to inspection by a representative of the college after the event.  Reasonable charges may be assessed against the sponsoring organization for the costs of extraordinary clean-up or for the repair of damaged property.

All fire, safety, sanitation or special regulations specified for the event are to be obeyed.

The college cannot and will not provide utility connections or hook-ups for purposes of First Amendment activities conducted pursuant to this policy.

The event must not obstruct vehicular, bicycle, pedestrian or other traffic or otherwise interfere with ingress or egress to the college, or to college buildings or facilities, or to college activities or events.

The event must not create safety hazards or pose unreasonable safety risks to college students, employees or invitees to the college.

The event must not interfere with educational activities inside or outside any college building or otherwise prevent the college from fulfilling its mission and achieving its primary purpose of providing an education to its students.

The event must not materially infringe on the rights and privileges of college students, employees or invitees to the college.

The event must also be in accordance with any other applicable college policies and regulations, regulations and policies of Bellevue College, local ordinances and/or state or federal laws.

Concerned students who are interested in changing community college policies in regards to protesting should contact Monica Mendoza of OLSA. Students can also talk to Chief Justice Abshir Mahamed at the Associated Student Government (ASG) or e-mail The Watchdog at with “Letter to the Editor” in the subject line.