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S.F. Community College|Settles With Protesters

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Police brutality and free speech claims against San Francisco and its community college were settled Tuesday, and a federal judge dismissed a civil rights lawsuit that student protesters filed late last year.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston wrote in dismissal that settlement payments have been made and each party will pay its own attorneys' fees.

Otto Pippenger and the Save CCSF Coalition sued the police and chancellor of City College, and the city and police of San Francisco, after a campus protest in March 2014.

Protesters called for the resignation of a special trustee who had been appointed to turn the school around as it faced loss of accreditation. They also protested a new tuition policy.

Pippenger claimed police violated his First Amendment rights, "brutalized" protesters, and used excessive force to unlawfully seize and falsely imprison him. He suffered a concussion, broken wrists, bruises and pepper spray burns.

City College's accreditation had been on the line since 2012. The California-based Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges demanded that the school show marked improvement in its staffing decisions and financial management, or prepare for closure.

In 2013, saying it was dissatisfied with its progress, the commission decided to terminate the college's accreditation.

The fairness of the decision was the subject of a state court trial that ended in February with an order for a fresh review of the reasons behind it.

In a related development Monday, the board of governors of California's community colleges decided to find a replacement for the commission, which the board said had lost credibility. The state's community college system has 113 campuses and 2.1 million students.

Geoffrey Baum, president of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors, said in a press release Monday: "There is widespread agreement among faculty, staff, trustees and other leaders within our system that the current accreditation process needs significant improvement. We look forward to examining a proposal for change early next year."

Pippenger and Save CCSF Coalition sought statutory and punitive damages, an injunction and attorneys' fees.

Details about the settlement payments were not disclosed in Illston's order.

Rachel Lederman represented the plaintiffs, Pippenger and Save CCSF Coalition.

Claudia Leed with Stubbs & Leone represented City College; Margaret Baumgartner from the city attorney's office represented San Francisco.

The attorneys did not respond to calls and emails Wednesday seeking comment.

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