State Sued Over Pro-Palestinian Student Group Ban

( – On Thursday, November 16, a student group supporting Palestine and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) declared they were filing a lawsuit against the University of Florida system and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R). The lawsuit alleges an attempt to deactivate the group and violate students’ free speech rights.

The ACLU posted on Twitter that the university’s student group is taking legal action against Governor DeSantis and some university leaders. They allege a violation of their First Amendment rights, asserting that the deactivation of the group was ordered as punishment for a statement from the independent national Students for Justice in Palestine.

The ACLU, ACLU of Florida, and Palestine Legal jointly filed a lawsuit, representing the student group. The legal action challenges a directive from University Chancellor Raymond Rodrigues, issued in consultation with DeSantis. The directive from the meeting was to revoke the group’s official recognition. Rodrigues issued his order based on statements from the National Students for Justice in Palestine, which is the focal point of the ACLU and Florida chapter’s arguments in the lawsuit.

The ACLU also stated that local student group chapters cannot face penalties for affiliation with their respective national organizations. The organization emphasized that the government cannot selectively punish or censor student groups based on their expression of speech that it disapproves of or disagrees with. The lawsuit states that the local and national chapters have no formal relationship except for sharing the name “Students for Justice in Palestine.”

The plaintiffs argue that the First Amendment protects independent political advocacy, regardless of its viewpoint. According to Florida state law, the lawsuit states that speech is not protected if it is carried out in coordination with a designated foreign terrorist organization.

DeSantis, a vocal supporter of Israel in the conflict, labeled members of the SJP organization as friends of Hamas. He alleged that they provide material support for the terrorism associated with the group. He stated that the deactivation of the group across the Florida university system is a result of his actions as governor.

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