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NKY Lawmakers Propose Bill Targeting Free Speech Rights of College Students

Two Northern Kentucky lawmakers announced Wednesday that they have filed a bill to, they say, protect the First Amendment rights of college students.

Representatives Kim Banta (R-Ft. Mitchell) and Savannah Maddox (R-Dry Ridge) argue that BR 1095, which would be considered during the 2022 General Assembly session, offers further protections for public college students within the Kentucky Campus Free Speech Protection Act.

That act was sponsored by Maddox and passed the Kentucky General Assembly in 2019.

According to the Republican lawmakers, the bill proposes to protect students’ free speech and expression rights that occur off-campus and online against university censorship; provide equal access to university facilities to student religious and political organizations; provide greater protection for students and faculty to express on campus; and to protect the public’s right to speak and express freely on the grounds of our public universities.

“Kentucky’s universities should be bastions of protection for the marketplace of ideas," said Maddox, in a news release. "Our institutions foster a process where truths compete and eventually win out over falsehoods. Defending our First Amendment rights is important to me; It’s why I ran the Campus Free Speech Act in 2019, and it’s why I’m proud to introduce BR 1095 today.

“When I hear students and faculty complain about mandatory indoctrination trainings that include biased perspectives on Critical Race Theory, and student organizations being discriminated against, I believe this calls for the General Assembly to create additional protections for free speech and civil liberties."

The proposed law would also provide protections to hold institutions accountable against indoctrination and provide greater institutional transparency for the citizens of Kentucky, the lawmakers said.

BR 1095 requires the allocation of student fees to be published on an institution’s website; requires administration and staff to be trained in how best to protect First Amendment rights and free thought on campus; protection against retaliation for any student or staff who files a complaint whenever their First Amendment rights are potentially violated; and affords greater accountability with our public institutions for when they infringe upon the First Amendment rights of any person in Kentucky, they said.

“In sponsoring the Campus Due Process Protection Act during our last session, I have heard from countless students and parents calling for a need to protect the constitutional rights of our students,” said Banta. “Constitutional rights should not stop at the campus gates. I’m honored to join Representative Maddox as a primary sponsor for BR 1095 to protect the right to freely speak and think at our public institutions for all Kentuckians.”

-Staff report

Photos: Banta, left, and Maddox (via LRC)