Breen Files Landmark Legislation to Ensure First Amendment Protections on College Campuses

In response to riots, violence, and “speech codes” shutting down peaceful demonstrations and lectures on college campuses across the country, a new Illinois bill would solidify Free Speech protections for college students. Filed this past week in Springfield by State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard), a constitutional rights attorney, HB 2939 would create the Campus Free Speech Act and provide a framework that would be used for the creation of a policy on free expression by every institution of higher learning in the state.

“With everything going on nationally right now, this is a timely bill that will serve as a reminder that the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech and expression,” said Breen. “Our public institutions of higher learning have historically embraced a commitment to free speech, but in recent years we have seen colleges and universities abdicate their responsibility to uphold free-speech principles. This initiative will put Illinois in the forefront of ensuring robust, respectful speech on college campuses.”

HB 2939 would require the governing board of each public university and community college to develop and adopt a policy on free expression and share the policy and rules with freshman students during the orientation process. Additionally, the bill would mandate at the board of higher education level the creation of a Committee on Free Expression, which would be required to issue an annual report on free speech activity on the campus.

“Free speech is a fundamental right in our society, and when young adults choose to gather peaceably, their actions—as long as within the purview of law—should not be discouraged or limited,” Breen said. “College is a time of self-discovery and learning for students, and our institutions of higher education should be striving to ensure the fullest degree of intellectual freedom and free expression.”

HB 2939 is awaiting assignment to a substantive committee.

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