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House Bill 684 — Higher ed, free speech

House Bill 684 — Higher ed, free speech

by
Kaitlyn Shepherd
March 2, 2022
Kaitlyn Shepherd
Author Image
March 2, 2022

Bill Description: House Bill 684 would prevent Idaho’s public colleges and universities from restricting the freedom of expression of members of the campus community. It would also require these educational entities to publish their policies on free speech and enable students and student organizations to seek legal remedies for violations of their rights.

Rating: +3

Does the bill protect free speech and academic freedom in research, teaching, and learning for the purpose of the advancement of truth and the pursuit of knowledge? (+) Conversely, does the bill restrict free speech or academic freedom? (-)

House Bill 684 would forbid any public college or university from “abridg[ing] the constitutional freedom of any member of the campus community to speak on campus.” It would protect many kinds of legal expressive activities, including speaking, protesting, assembling, inviting guest speakers, distributing flyers or petitions, and carrying signs. Under the bill, colleges would not be able to establish free speech zones, and all members of the campus community — students, staff, faculty, administrators, and invited guests — would be able to exercise their freedom of speech on campus, subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. The individual’s actions must be lawful and must not not “materially and substantially disrupt” the university’s operations.

(+1)

Does the bill increase transparency or accountability in public education institutions? (+) Conversely, does the bill decrease transparency and accountability in public education institutions? (-) 

House Bill 684 would increase transparency in public educational institutions by requiring colleges to publicize the “laws, policies, and expectations of students regarding free expression on campus.” Colleges would have to do this in student handbooks, new student orientation programs, and on their website. House Bill 684 would increase accountability by requiring universities to report to the Legislature and governor about how they are implementing the required free speech protections. Universities would need to post this information on their website and keep it up-to-date. Furthermore, House Bill 684 would require universities to report to the Legislature and governor about complaints or lawsuits “alleging an unlawful unconditional limitation” on the protected expressive activities. 

(+1)

House Bill 684 would increase accountability in public educational institutions by enabling students or student organizations to seek legal redress for violations of the right to free expression on campus. A university would not be “immune from suit or liability for the violation.” If a court finds that a university committed a violation, the student or student organization could receive injunctive relief, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and reasonable court costs.

(+1)

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