Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

ABA To Vote On Law School Free Speech Accreditation Standard This Friday

Reuters, Law School Free Speech Rules Set for American Bar Association Vote:

ABA Legal Ed (2022)The American Bar Association is expected on Friday to vote on new free speech rules for law schools—a long-gestating move that comes as campus clashes between Israeli and Palestinian supporters have intensified in recent weeks.

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East has placed particular focus on campus free speech rights, which is an issue several prominent law schools have been grappling with over the past two years and one that the ABA’s legal education arm is aiming to address with the proposed changes to its accreditation standards.

“Effective legal education and the development of the law require the free, robust, and uninhibited sharing of ideas reflecting a wide range of viewpoints,” the new standard reads.

Under the proposed change, law schools must have free speech policies protecting the exchange of ideas. Schools would develop their own free speech policies, but those policies must protect the rights of faculty, staff and students to communicate controversial or unpopular ideas and safeguard robust debate, demonstrations or protests.

They must also forbid disruptive activities that hinder free expression or substantially interfere with law school functions or activities. Schools would be allowed to restrict any activity that “constitutes a genuine threat or harassment” or that is defamatory or violates the law.

The proposed rule does not include any specific enforcement mechanism, but law schools that do not adhere to the ABA's standards risk losing their accreditation.

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