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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Monday, October 11, 2021

#FREESPEECH in the News October 11, 2021

Bliss Davis, Content and Programming Coordinator, The City Club of Cleveland

#FREESPEECH in the News October 11, 2021

As the Citadel of Free Speech here in Cleveland, we work to protect and promote the basis of our democracy by sharing related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century. Here's what's making the news – and what you should know about – in the past week.

1.) New law bans harassment at vaccination sites, but free speech concerns persist

It’s now illegal in California to harass people on their way into a vaccination clinic, under a law signed Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom. But First Amendment experts continue to raise legal questions about the law’s constitutionality, including its definition of harassment.

The new law, which takes effect immediately, makes it a misdemeanor to harass, intimidate, injure or obstruct people on their way to get a covid-19 or any other kind of vaccine, punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail. Even though the measure, SB 742, was amended to remove a phrase that free speech experts said made it unconstitutional, they maintain that the new version still violates the First Amendment.

“It sweeps up broad activities that are protected by the First Amendment and defines them as harassing,” said David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, which advocates for free speech and government transparency. “That problem hasn’t changed at all.”

2.) Judge allows OU student's free-speech lawsuit to proceed

A University of Oklahoma student has achieved an early legal victory in her lawsuit against OU volleyball coaches. A volleyball player said she was retaliated against because of her conservative beliefs.

Kylee McLaughlin claims she was a premier player and scholarship athlete who was retaliated against because of her beliefs and a comment she made, including about a documentary that teammates said were racist, and a social media post that she says a coach asked her to take down.

She says she either had to get off the team or practice separately and was treated unfairly for her beliefs. She eventually decided to transfer.

The case is, in some ways, similar to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that found a school should not have punished a high school cheerleader for Snapchat posts she made outside school about the team.

3.) School’s harsh punishment of star student on Maui turns into test of free speech

Benjamin Lolesio is senior class vice president at Lahainaluna High, an honors student, and involved in several clubs, sports, and activities on campus. After several months of planning, Lolesio said two days before homecoming, LHS Principal Jeri Dean threatened to cancel the big event because of unclear COVID guidelines.

“I went on social media and I voiced my opinion just because I was really frustrated with the way she was handling things,” Lolesio said.

Lolesio’s Instagram post said that she was unqualified for her job. As a result, Lolesio was suspended for 10 days, kicked off student council, kicked off the Homecoming Court, and banned from the event. The principal claimed it was cyberbullying, which is a Class A offense in the Department of Education.

“Having been given a suspension for Class A cyberbullying, that could be something that could be detrimental to his future, going on to college and applying for scholarships,” Tonata said. But Attorney Kristin Coccaro says Lolesio’s post was merely an opinion.

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