The Liberty Justice Center Asks Federal Court to Strike Down “Bias Reporting” Scheme That Polices Students’ Speech Through Their Peers

August 1, 2023

(August 1, 2023) Chicago, IL — The Liberty Justice Center (LJC) asked a Virginia federal court to strike down Loudon County Public Schools’ “Bias Reporting System,” which threatens to punish students for expressing opinions on controversial issues and for speech that other students report as offensive. In a motion for summary judgment filed in the case Menders v. Loudoun County School Board, LJC argues on behalf of Loudon County parents and students that the scheme violates students’ First Amendment rights by policing their speech and discouraging them from expressing their views.

In June 2020, Loudoun County Public Schools introduced its “Bias Reporting System,” which encourages students to police their peers by reporting those who make allegedly offensive statements to a “Supervisor of Equity.” According to the school’s policies, “bias incidents” worthy of reporting could include statements of opinion on debated issues, such as “I believe in a colorblind society.”

“Creating an environment where students are encouraged to police one another stifles their free speech and their ability to critically analyze the world around them,” said Emily Rae, attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “Instead of promoting equality and open discussion, this program causes fear,
suspicion, and distrust among students who might otherwise find common ground.”

Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia initially dismissed the First Amendment challenge to the program in January 2022. However, in April 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed that ruling, concluding that the parents and students had alleged a valid First Amendment claim. Menders v. Loudoun County School Board was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on June 2, 2021.

The Liberty Justice Center’s filings and other documents from the case are available here.


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