The University of Central Florida was overruled by a three-judge federal appeals court in April 2022 for two internal speech policies that violated the First Amendment. The ruling imposed an injunction to stop the University from using the policies and vehemently condemned them.
The first policy from UCF barred discriminatory harassment based on a slew of identifiers, including age, sex, and race. The University would look at several factors to determine if someone had violated the policy, including:
- The frequency, nature, and severity of the conduct
- If the conduct was physically threatening
- The conduct's effect on the complainant's mental or emotional state
- And if it was directed at more than one person
The second policy outlawed bias-related incidents. These types of incidents include any behavior or action that is directed towards another person or group because of particular characteristics they have observed - like bullying male students perceived as acting effeminately. The bias motivates the offender to act in an offensive way towards that person or group and creates an unwelcoming and potentially unsafe environment for the victim.
The Outcome for UCF
The appeals court determined that the language of the policy was preventing students from fully expressing themselves out of a fear that doing so could get them in trouble, and potentially dismissed from the university as a whole. The policy infringes upon the First Amendment because it is too broad and vague - there are far too many types of interactions between students that it could never be truly effective.
Though UCF was not happy with the decision and continues to review it, they did agree that universities should encourage discourse, free speech, and free expression and will continue to work on that commitment.
How an Attorney Advisor Can Help
This is an exciting win for students across the country who have faced unnecessary punishments for conduct and language that is protected by the First Amendment. It has been reported that this decision will have a ripple effect in several states, including Georgia and Alabama – neighbors to Florida.
If you feel like you are being unfairly judged for things you have said or done on campus, Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help. Universities endeavor to create a hospitable environment for all of their students, but sometimes in doing so, their policies actually begin to infringe on students – doing the opposite of what they intended.
Attorney Lento has spent years helping students across the United States facing various accusations, including discrimination and harassment. Attorney Lento and his expert team have the experience and skill to help you fight such accusations and prevent unnecessary punishments. You have a First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression. These due process rights must be protected at all costs. Call 888-535-3686 today or schedule a consultation online.