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mahatmakanejeeves

(58,725 posts)
Mon Mar 11, 2024, 11:03 AM Mar 2024

Supreme Court declines to rule on bias-reporting program at Virginia Tech

Hat tip, SCOTUSblog

SCOTUS NEWS
Justices set aside university free speech challenge

By Amy Howe
on Mar 4, 2024 at 12:16 pm

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LEGAL ISSUES
Supreme Court declines to rule on bias-reporting program at Va. Tech

By Rachel Weiner
March 4, 2024 at 4:14 p.m. EST

The Supreme Court has declined to review a defunct program at Virginia Tech that allowed students to anonymously report allegations of biased behavior, frustrating two of the most conservative justices. ... The school disbanded the program in early 2023 when the dean who created it left Virginia Tech and told the Supreme Court it would not be revived. For that reason, the Supreme Court declared the case moot and vacated, or undid, a lower-court ruling deeming the policy constitutional. But circuit courts across the country have split over similar anti-bias programs at other universities. These offices, created at hundreds of schools across the country in recent decades, were intended to address claims of discrimination on campuses but have been accused of chilling unpopular speech — particularly by conservatives.

“This petition presents a high-stakes issue for our Nation’s system of higher education. Until we resolve it, there will be a patchwork of First Amendment rights on college campuses,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in dissenting from the decision. He was joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The case is one of nine filed by the advocacy group Speech First challenging university bias-reporting policies on behalf of conservative students who say they are being silenced. Several other influential organizations on the right backed the challenge, including the powerful Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.

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Speech First provided no evidence that anyone had been disciplined or threatened with discipline by the bias team. While the group highlighted bias complaints it deemed unfair — such as a claim of gender discrimination after some male students dismissed the athleticism of female students during a snowball fight — there was no evidence the school took any action in response to those reports in the court record. ... For those reasons, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit concluded last year that Speech First did not have standing to challenge the policy.

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By Rachel Weiner
Rachel Weiner covers federal courts in Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Va. Twitter https://twitter.com/rachelweinerwp
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