State Governments Delivering on College Students’ Free Speech, Due Process Rights


There’s been no shortage of unconstitutional legislation affecting speech on campus for my employer, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), to cover of late. It’s a breath of fresh air, then, to commend Kentucky, Indiana, and Georgia for passing new new bills protecting student free speech and due process rights. 

The most transformative of these measures is the Kentucky Campus Due Process Protection Act, which Gov. Andy Beshear signed into law on April 8. Under the law, students facing suspension or expulsion at public institutions of higher education are ensured vital due process protections, including:

  • the right to the active assistance of an attorney or advisor during all stages of the campus disciplinary process;
  • the right to cross-examination of adverse parties and witnesses;
  • timely written notice of charges, and specific details about the facts giving rise to them;
  • reasonable, continuous access to the administrative file and evidence in the institution’s possession; and
  • impartiality from the hearing panel, including a prohibition against an investigator also serving on the hearing panel.

Rep. Kim Banta, who introduced the bill, explained its importance well, saying, “Students work too hard to earn their college degrees for their education to be on the line in campus proceedings that are rigged against them.” Indeed, FIRE’s analysis of policies at Kentucky’s colleges and universities underscored the need for this legislation, finding, among other issues, few policies that guarantee a student’s right to active representation by an attorney or advisor of their choosing in university misconduct cases. Encouragingly, the legislation was supported by the state organizations of both Kentucky’s College Republicans and College Democrats.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, meanwhile, signed HB 1190 in March. FIRE testified in support of the legislation, which bans “free speech zones” that unconstitutionally quarantine expression to restricted areas of campus. It also adopts the speech-protective definition of student-on-student harassment set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education. The new law also states that public colleges and universities may not discriminate against “a religious, political, or ideological student organization on the basis of protected expressive activity of the student organization.”

And just this week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law HB 1, also known as the FORUM Act. This measure improves upon previous legislation by adopting the Davis standard of harassment and establishing unrestricted outdoor areas of state campuses as public forums open to student expression. Georgia and Indiana now are among 22 states to have banned such free speech zones. 

Well done one and all. If other states are looking to join their company, our door’s always open.

Published in Education
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  1. DaveSchmidt Coolidge

    An important step in the right direction. 

    • #1
  2. Victor Tango Kilo Member
    Victor Tango Kilo

    There’s been a pleasant outbreak of conservatism among Red State governors this year. (Utah’s Spencer Cox being a conspicuous exception.) The free speech reforms in Georgia and Kentucky (a blue governor feeling some heat) are most welcome, as is the expansion of Constitutional Carry in Ohio, Indiana, and Georgia.

    • #2
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