Tenth State Bans ‘Free Speech Zones’ At Public Universities

Grace Carr | Reporter

Legislation to protect free speech is spreading across the country, as Georgia becomes the 10th state to pass regulations safeguarding freedom of speech and press.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 339 on May 8, which bans what countless public universities have dubbed as “free speech zones” — given freedom of speech inherently applies to all public places rather than a select few.

The bill also gives Georgia public universities the tools to punish students who disrupt or attempt to disrupt speakers who come to the university to deliver a speech or the like, according to Campus Reform. Universities must also provide the governor and state’s general assembly with a report regarding the state of free speech on Georgia’s public university campuses.

Uniform punishments do not exist under the legislation, and schools will be able to allocate their own punishments after investigating cases where students violate the free speech rights of others, according to Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) Policy Director Joe Cohn.

Some parties aren’t happy about the legislative move. “Universities may not censor protected speech in order to shield others who find it offensive, but this seems to go beyond that to forbid universities to take any action at all that might ‘shield’ anyone from anything, even in the sense of giving accurate notice of what will happen at an event so students can decide whether to attend,” University of Nebraska-Lincoln former professor David Moshman told Campus Reform. Moshman also formerly served as the president of the Nebraska’s ACLU.

Florida passed a bill in early March banning “free speech zones,” joining a number of other states that have done the same. (RELATED: Florida Bans So-Called Campus ‘Free Speech Zones)

Virginia, Missouri, Arizona, Kentucky, Colorado, Utah, North Carolina and Tennessee all bar public universities from censoring speech.

Louisiana is considering a similar bill would would protect the free speech rights of public university students. The bill has passed the state Senate and awaits a House vote.

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