Judge: School Bullying Policy Not Biased Against Conservatives

(CN) – The University of Michigan’s prohibition of bullying and harassment does not violate conservative students’ right to free speech, a federal judge has ruled.

Speech First Inc., an organization that seeks to protect college students’ rights, challenged the university’s disciplinary code on behalf of three unidentified students.

The group claimed the students feel they cannot discuss topics like President Donald Trump’s policies, abortion, illegal immigration and the Black Lives Matter movement without violating university policy.

The organization filed a motion for preliminary injunction on May 11, which was denied Monday by U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker of the Eastern District of Michigan.

An injunction would have stopped the university’s Bias Response Team from investigating and punishing students for “bias-related misconduct.”

While the case was proceeding, the university revised its definitions of “harassing” and “bullying.” It removed the dictionary definitions and retained those that reflected state laws.

The Bias Response Team was created during the 2010-11 academic year, but it lacks the power to sanction students.

For this reason, the university argued, Speech First lacked standing to challenge the university’s policy. Parker agreed.

“According to BRT coordinator (Evelyn) Galvan, in most cases, she does not contact the subject of a report,” she wrote. “In only one case where she reached out to the subject did the individual agree to meet. In the remaining cases where the individual declined to meet, Ms. Galvan did not follow up with the individual.”

Parker also noted a lack of evidence that the BRT even criticized the speech of a student who reportedly showed bias.

“In short, Speech First fails to demonstrate that the BRT poses a concrete or objective threat of harm to the First Amendment rights of University students,” she wrote.

She also ruled that Speech First’s challenge to the university’s previous, dictionary-based definitions of “bullying” and “harassing” are moot.

 

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