The ruling by U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, a Reagan appointee, was a victory for the nonprofit group Speech First in its lawsuit against the University of Houston after it implemented a policy that stated students could face disciplinary action ranging from probation to suspension or expulsion for subjecting other students “to unlawful severe, pervasive, or persistent treatment” on the basis of their race, color, género, edad, religion or sexual orientation.
Speech First had argued that the university’s definition of harassment was too broad and included “denigrating jokes” y “negative stereotyping” which they say is protected by the First Amendment.
Hughes agreed and said the school’s policy did not comport with standards adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1999’s Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education and that a preliminary injunction was necessary to provide students “defenses against arbitrary professors.”
“The University cannot choose to abide by the First Amendment in the Constitution,” Hughes wrote. “It is not guidance — it is the law.”
The university earlier this month ahead of a court hearing changed its policy to more narrowly define harassment. But Hughes said there remained a risk the school could reinstate the original one.
He cited an earlier case Speech First brought against University of Texas at Austin, in which the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2020 held that the school’s decision to change similar policies did not moot the group’s lawsuit.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, the University of Houston says it adopted a new anti-discrimination policy on May 13 y ahora “delineates employees and students separately.”
“In the ruling on Friday, the judge prohibited enforcing a previous version of the UH System anti-discrimination policy,” Shawn Lindsey Associate Vice Chancellor and Associate Vice President of Media Relations said. “We look forward to future discussions of the new policy with the plaintiffs and the court in this ongoing case. The University remains committed to the welfare of our community, including protecting the rights of its students and employees.”
Reuters contributed to this report