‘Limit Free Expression’: Watchdog Sues University For ‘Unconstitutional’ Speech Codes

(Screenshot/YouTube/Texas State University)

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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Speech First, a free speech watchdog, sued Texas State University (TXST) on Thursday over two policies it alleges chill on-campus speech.

Speech First accuses the school’s Discriminatory Harassment Policy and its Computer Policy of violating students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, according to the lawsuit. It alleges the Discriminatory Harassment Policy, which prohibits “unwelcome verbal, written, graphic, or physical conduct,” chills speech and is “unconstitutional” while the computer policy, which bars students from using university “information resources” for a political purpose, is “vague, content-based, and overbroad.” (RELATED: ‘Students Can’t Even Express An Opinion’: Major University Sued Over Speech Policies)

Texas State’s policies are clearly designed to deter and restrict student speech all together, with both policies working in tandem to limit free expression and the exchange of viewpoints on campus,” Cherise Trump, Speech First executive director, said in a statement shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Instead of promoting an environment of learning, intellectual exploration, and open discourse, Texas State has chosen the inverse. By implementing policies that restrict how students can discuss politics or any of the societal issues of the day, the university has forced students to opt-out of classroom discussions. Instead, they choose not to speak up, concerned they may be accused of harassment for ‘offending’ someone.”

Speech First works with three students, who opted to remain anonymous, that allege the policies infringe on their right to free speech, the lawsuit reads. Students A, B and C “want to engage in speech that is arguably covered by the University’s policies, but they credibly fear that the expression of their deeply held views is prohibited.”

The views include topics such as affirmative action, abortion, illegal immigration, biological sex and traditional marriage, the lawsuit reads.

“Texas State administrators have created a campus controlled by fear where students are afraid to share their opinions, engage their classmates, or even posit new ideas,” Trump said, according to the press release. “By violating their students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, Texas State claims they’re protecting students. How can Texas State claim to protect students while violating their rights?””

The watchdog seeks a declarative injunction that states both policies violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments and for the court to bar the university from enforcing them, the lawsuit reads.

TXST did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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