By Andres Davila | Assistant News Director
The ongoing debate about DeSantis’ attempts to reduce free speech in Florida has been an influence on March 7th’s Tuesday Table Talk about students’ free speech rights.
FIU’s adjunct professor for the school of criminology and criminal justice, Dr. Allison Matulli, is the founder of Little Lawyers, an organization dedicated to promoting legal awareness for children as she also advocates for the empowerment of educators and children to tackle issues such as systemic racism, prejudice, legal literacy, and diversity and inclusion.
As an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago, she wanted to learn more about what the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution consisted of.
“One thing we’re brought up do is to get really good grades [and] do really well in school, keep your head under the water, don’t ruffle any feathers or make any waves, but not necessarily use our First Amendment rights,” Matulli said.
Matulli went on to discuss the implications of the First Amendment rights, providing real-world life examples such as the notable Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District.
Matulli had interviewed Mary Beth Tinker previously, as she lives near Washington D.C. where she attended Howard University School of Law for her J.D. In the interview, Tinker reflects back on the case and how much privilege she had wearing an armband as a sign of protest.
In reference to Black kids protesting for their equality a couple of years back, due to an instance of several murders of Black girls, Tinker reflected upon how “she was a white privilege female, that didn’t have to worry so much about any kinds of acts of violence,” Matulli recalled.
While examining the freedoms mentioned in the First Amendment, Matulli asks a question that still confuses the law: “Where does social media fall?”
“Social media falls under [freedom of the] press right now. Social media companies have been in the media nonstop because they don’t want to say ‘We’re not responsible for what people throw out there’,” Matulli said.
Matulli is referring to Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy, a case that dealt with text messages being exchanged that eventually lead to Carter being guilty of convincing Roy to kill himself with carbon monoxide.
Moving towards other cases related to free speech, the students in attendance did an activity to recognize the freedoms used in the case and whether or not it was used appropriately, separating the freedoms by sticky notes. Several cases discussed were Elk Grove Unified School District vs. Newdow and George Floyd’s trial in regards to the video evidence.
Ending the event, Matulli reflected back to how students should comprehend the importance of their freedom as they stand on university grounds with the political pressure from DeSantis.