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Last month, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed two bills into law that will significantly strengthen key civil liberties in higher education. HB 185, introduced by Rep. Charles Owen, codifies important free speech protections for students at Louisiana’s public colleges, while HB 364, introduced by Rep. Scott McKnight, provides critical due process protections. My employer, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), advised Louisiana legislators as they drafted and revised each bill.
HB 185 makes important revisions to Louisiana’s existing campus free speech law. Among its provisions, the law adopts the speech-protective definition of student-on-student harassment established by the Supreme Court in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, which defines student-on-student harassment as conduct “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.” HB 185 also prevents colleges from charging security fees to students and student organizations based on the content of their expression or the anticipated reaction to an invited guest’s speech.