No injunction against University of Michigan anti-bias team
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — A federal judge has denied a request by free-speech advocates to block a University of Michigan team from investigating allegations of bias, despite claims the team hinders free speech on campus.
U.S. District Court Judge Linda Parker rejected the preliminary injunction requested by advocate group Speech First, the Ann Arbor News reported. Speech First had sought to halt the university from punishing students who violate the school code that prohibits harassment, bullying and “bias-related misconduct.”
Parker agreed with the university that the Bias Response Team isn’t a disciplinary body and only works with students “who agree to participate.”
“The evidence does not even reflect an instance where the BRT criticized the speech of an individual who is reported to have engaged in biased conduct,” Parker wrote.
Speech First is also suing the school on behalf of three students who allege that university policies prohibiting harassment and bullying are unconstitutional.
The Justice Department sided with Speech First in June. It’s one of several times the federal agency has inserted itself into a First Amendment court dispute during President Donald Trump’s administration. The Justice Department argued that the policies interfere with students’ First Amendment rights because they fail to define the scope of banned words or actions.
The university sought to clarify and standardize definitions of bullying and harassment on the same day the Justice Department challenged its policies. The school has since drawn definitions from state law, input more safeguards for free speech and revised language to narrow the scope of what’s prohibited.
UM Spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen said the court’s latest ruling affirms that the Bias Response Team doesn’t violate the First Amendment and that its mission is “educational, not punitive.”