Wednesday, February 7, 2024

ABA establishes "free speech" standards for law school accreditation purposes

Story here; an excerpt:

Law schools will now be asked to explicitly protect free speech rights for faculty, students and staff as part of the ABA accreditation process. Though law school faculty have long enjoyed protections for academic freedom, this would be the first accreditation standard to address free speech for the entire community within law schools.

The ABA House of Delegates on Monday voted in favor of the creation of the law school standards regarding academic freedom and freedom of expression at its midyear meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.

Resolution 300 was brought by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. It calls for the adoption of Standard 208, which requires law schools to “protect the rights of faculty, students and staff to communicate ideas that may be controversial or unpopular, including through robust debate, demonstrations or protests.” It does not provide specific policy language.

Just as a sidenote, what's new here is the protection for free speech rights, not academic freedom, which faculty already enjoy in almost all (maybe all) law schools by contract or as a matter of constitutional right at public law schools.  Under the AAUP definition of academic freedom, faculty are protected from sanction for their extramural speech, e.g., on political or other topics.  In effect, this new provision appears to extend that protection to students and staff at a law school.

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