Virginia Tech faces lawsuit over policies limiting students’ free speech

New River Valley News

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — “Speech First, Inc.,” a First Amendment advocacy group, is filing a lawsuit against Virginia Tech for four specific university policies it says are “chilling student speech.”

According to the advocacy group, these policies involve discriminatory harassment, bias-related incidents, computer usage, and the requirement to obtain school permission before handing out flyers on campus.

“Under these policies, students can be disciplined for “unwelcome jokes” – or even being present when such jokes are made and failing to report when such comments are made by another person; sending “partisan, political” emails using the university’s internet; or failing to register to hand out flyers on campus. And through the school’s Bias Response program, students are encouraged to report each other while speculating on the “bias” that may have motivated their peers’ opinions, sowing mistrust and undermining community.”

Speech First

Court documents show the lawsuit — Speech First v. Sands, et al. — was filed in the Roanoke Division of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia on Thursday, April 8 to help protect the rights of students and others at the university, including the freedom of speech.

According to Speech First’s president and founder, Nicole Neily, “Through this elaborate disciplinary apparatus, administrators at Virginia Tech have intimidated students into silence, refraining altogether from expressing comments or viewpoints that might be perceived as controversial or offensive.”

Virginia Tech representatives shared the following statement with WFXR News on Friday, April 9 in response to inquiries about the Speech First lawsuit:

“The university has not been served with this lawsuit. Unable to comment on something we have not received or read.”

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