First Amendment Group: U. of Illinois ‘Bias Response’ Report Systems Force Students to Self-Censor

Demand Democracy free speech protest
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A legal activist group that defends First Amendment rights has filed a lawsuit against the University of Illinois over its “bias response” reporting system which claims that the system forces students to “self-censor.”

According to a report by The College Fix, a legal non-profit called Speech First has filed a lawsuit against the University of Illinois over its “bias response” reporting system. Speech First claims that certain policies at the University of Illinois “chill” speech that is protected by the First Amendment.

In its complaint against the University of Illinois, Speech First argued that the “bias-motivated incidents” speech provisions implemented by the university are a violation of the First Amendment.

Second, the University prohibits “bias-motivated incidents,” which it defines as “action[s] or expression[s]” that are “motivated, at least in part, by prejudice against or hostility toward a person (or group) because of that person’s (or group’s) actual or perceived age, disability/ability status, ethnicity, gender, gender identity/expression, national origin, race, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, etc.” This overbroad and vague definition encompasses speech and expression that is fully protected under the First Amendment, chills free speech, and is therefore unconstitutional.

The University of Illinois has a long list of anti-speech policies including one that bans the distribution of “leaflets” and “handbills” without the approval of school officials. Speech First claims that the leaflet policy, along with the broad restrictions of the “bias response” system, is a violation of the First Amendment.

Breitbart News reported in October that the University of Michigan had agreed to shut down its “bias response” reporting system after a legal battle with Speech First. The Department of Justice published a Statement of Interest in the case against the University of Michigan, alleging that the “bias incident” system “chills” expression on campus before it even takes place.

The United States also argues that the University’s Bias Response Policy chills protected speech through its Bias Response Team.  The Bias Response Team, which consists of University administrators and law enforcement officers, has the authority to subject students to discipline and sanction.  It encourages students to report any suspected instances of bias, advising them: “[t]he most important indication of bias is your own feelings.”  According to the plaintiff, the Bias Response Team has responded to more than 150 alleged incidents of bias in the last year.

Stay tuned to Breitbart News for more updates on “bias incident” reporting systems on campuses around the country.

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