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ABA Considers Proposal on Free Speech Requirements for Law Schools

The accrediting arm of the American Bar Association (ABA) is considering a proposal that may require law schools to adopt written free speech policies.

The proposal comes amidst a number of high-profile incidents of student disruptions of speakers at law schools. On Friday, the association’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which the U.S. Department of Education recognizes as the sole and independent accreditor of law schools, voted to release the proposal for public notice and comment, Inside Higher Ed reports. The proposal will undergo further consideration during the council’s upcoming November meeting.


Under the new proposal, each law school would draft its own freedom of speech policy that includes the required aspects:

  • Protect the rights of faculty, students and staff to communicate ideas that may be controversial or unpopular, including through robust debate, demonstrations, or protests
  • Proscribe disruptive conduct that hinders free expression by preventing or substantially interfering with the carrying out of law school functions or approved activities, such as classes, meetings, interviews, ceremonies and public events

The policies would apply to ABA-accredited law schools and anyone with teaching responsibilities at said law schools.

Additionally, law schools would be required to provide people accused of violating the policy “due process, such as notice, hearing and appeal rights, to assess any claim of a violation of the academic freedom policies,” according to the memo.

The memo also states that academic freedom and freedom of expression policies may be adjusted to align with the law school’s mission “so long as such policies are not in violation of the law and are clearly disclosed in writing to all faculty, students and staff prior to their affiliation with the law school.”

Sources: Inside Higher Ed, American Bar Association, The Stanford Daily

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