Judge suspends Penn. college’s speech code

A federal judge in Pennsylvania issued apreliminary injunction this month to prevent Shippensburg University fromenforcing portions of its student conduct code that he said might violate theFirst Amendment.

U.S. District Judge John Jones III issued the Sept. 4ruling after finding that sections of the code designed to promote tolerancerestricted students’ free-speech rights and were likely to be foundunconstitutional in future proceedings.

“On its face,” Jones wrote, “itis apparent that the Code of Conduct prohibits speech that is protected by theFirst Amendment.”

Among other things, the injunction prohibitsenforcement of rules that prevent students from communicating in ways that might”provoke, harass, intimidate or harm another.”

The case awaits trial inthe district court.

SPLC View: To date, no college or highschool “speech code” in the country has survived a legal challenge. The code atShippensburg, while perhaps motivated by good intentions, is simply the latestexample of the difficulty — and so far, impossibility — of mandatingpolitically correct speech. Courts have consistently recognized what schoolofficials have not: that people have the First Amendment right to “talk mean” toone another.