Lawsuit ends requirement for ‘trigger warnings’

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A university has backed down from its demand that pro-life students post warning signs around campus to protect students who might be offended by their “Cemetery of the Innocents” display to protest abortion.

The issue arose when Miami University of Ohio ordered its Students for Life chapter to post the “trigger warnings.”

The fight was taken up by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which went to court and now has announced a settlement that means the warnings no longer are required.

ADF said the school agreed to change its “unconstitutional” policy requiring the warnings.

Going forward, the school will respect the free speech rights of all students, regardless of their viewpoint, ADF announced Friday.

“We commend the university for quickly recognizing that its officials do not have the authority to censor student speech simply because of how someone might respond to it,” said ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham.

“By revising its policies to respect students’ constitutionally protected rights, the university has fostered the marketplace of ideas that public universities are supposed to be. After all, the only permission slip students need to speak on campus is the First Amendment, and they cannot be forced to post ‘trigger warning’ signs simply to share their ideas.”

A school official had justified her demand for the “trigger warnings” last year by saying a display opposing abortion might cause “emotional trauma” if someone saw it.

Under the settlement, the school disavowed a policy that created a complex, burdensome permit system for speech activities.

ADF said the school also agreed to revise a second policy used to justify the warning signs so that other student groups will not face similar mistreatment. And it agreed to revise a third policy so officials cannot stifle speech simply because it could “cause alarm, annoyance, or nuisance.”

The dispute is costing the school the damages of $200 and attorneys’ fees of more than $22,000 for the Students for Life group.

“Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s voters and civic leaders,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “That’s why it’s so important that public colleges and universities exemplify the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students. Miami University has shown it wants to do that by taking quick corrective action in agreeing to revise their policies to protect free speech.”

Because of the settlement, the lawsuit itself was dismissed.

“Tolerance is a two-way street,” said Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins. “Just like any other student group seeking to promote its message, Students for Life members should be free to share their love and concern for mothers and their children without government censorship. These policy changes will protect the views of all students, not just those favored by a few administrators.”

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