Free Speech at Public Universities

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 07, 2022 | 0 Comments

In Perlot v. Green, handed down by the United States District Court in Idaho, tackled what happens when universities take sides in “culture wars.” To summarize the background of Perlot v. Green, members of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) at the University of Idaho claimed another student, who identified as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, violated CLS's right to free speech when the student sought a no-contact order against CLS members. Notably, the CLS members had sought to invite the student to further discussion of the school's treatment of marriage, but the student felt that CLS was a discriminatory group and claimed she felt threatened by CLS.

Additionally, the CLS members alleged the university violated their constitutional right to the freedom of religion when it failed to take any equal action against those expressing opposing viewpoints to theirs.

Do Universities Have Free Speech?

A significant issue the Perlot case brings to light is just how far free speech protections extend to universities. A private citizen enjoys protections to free speech, and in the Perlot case, this is seen when the CLS member leaves a note for the student who requested the no contact order. Unlike the individuals in the case, public universities don't get as much leeway because they are government institutions. Public universities must remain neutral, or else they'll be in violation of their student's constitutional rights.

Because the University of Idaho didn't invoke the same action against the student who sought the no contact order, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Essentially, the university didn't maintain neutrality, which meant the CLS members' rights were violated.

These constitutional rights cases are complicated, but at the end of the day, students deserve protection. Universities may be quick to dive into today's culture wars, out of concern for their own image. Unfortunately, this may mean other students' rights are violated.

Hire An Experienced Student Discipline Defense Attorney-Advisor

There are any number of ways a school may violate a student's rights. What's worse, sometimes these violations occur when a student is being investigated for some sort of misconduct, and the student's entire academic career is at risk. Anytime a school accuses a student of violating its rules, the student and their family should hire an experienced student discipline defense attorney who will help them understand not only the legal path forward but also if the university is acting appropriately.

If you or someone you love needs help discussing conduct issues with your university, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm.  Attorney Lento and his Student Defense Team understand the implications of schools that suppress free speech or any other constitutional or civil right. To learn how the Lento Law Firm can help you, contact us online, or call 888-535-3686 today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Attorney Lento and his team represent students and others in disciplinary cases and various other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Attorney Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he and his team have sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address any school-related issue or concern anywhere in the United States.


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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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