Lawsuit accuses university speech policy of infringing on students' freedom of expression

Speech First filed a lawsuit against the University of Houston on behalf of three students.

'The harassment policy is too broad,' one student told Campus Reform.

The non-profit group Speech First filed a lawsuit against the University of Houston (UH) on Feb. 23 regarding its anti-discrimination policy

The suit is on behalf of three students who are being kept anonymous: Student A, Student B, and Student C. 

According to the lawsuit, these students voiced concern after an official university video on the school's website stated that using improper pronouns may be considered "hate speech," according to the suit. 

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Due to the university policy, the students apparently felt they could not express their views on a range of political issues including transgender athletes and forced pronoun usage. 

University of Houston Director of Media Relations Chris Stipes told Campus Reform that the lawsuit allegedly “misconstrued” the policy.

“We believe Speech First has misconstrued or misread this policy and, if something is confusing, we are ready to clarify it,” Stiped said. “Regardless, we believe our policies are consistent with state and federal law. We look forward to [the] resolution of this matter.”

Campus Reform spoke with Speech First Executive Director Cherise Trump about the lawsuit.

“Under Supreme Court precedent, schools can only restrict speech when it becomes so 'severe and pervasive' that it crosses the line into harassing conduct," Trump stated. 

Trump also pointed out that the university, while not having a bias response team, encourages students and faculty to report on one another. 

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A student at the University of Houston, who is not affiliated with the lawsuit, spoke with Campus Reform under the condition of anonymity. 

“The harassment policy is too broad. It needs to be redefined to be more specific. The current policy stifles a person’s ability to speak freely,” he said.

In addition to the lawsuit, Speech First also filed a request for a preliminary injunction that would prevent the university’s anti-discrimination policy from being enforced for the duration of the lawsuit until a ruling is given.