Bill Summary for H 527 (2017-2018)

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Summary date: 

Mar 29 2017

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2017-2018 Session
House Bill 527 (Public) Filed Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Intro. by Millis, Jordan.

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Bill summary

Contains whereas clauses.

Enacts new GS Chapter 116, Article 36, directing the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina to adopt a policy on free expression that states, at least, nine listed policy positions, including that the proper role of constituent institutions is not to shield individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment, and that constituent institutions shall strive to remain neutral on, and may not take action on, public controversies, as an institution, and providing disciplinary sanctions for anyone under the constituent institution's jurisdiction who interferes with the free expression of others.

Directs the Board of Governors to establish an 11-member Committee on Free Expression (Committee) from its membership. Directs all employees of the University of North Carolina and all State agencies to cooperate with the Committee, and directs the Committee to report to the public, the Board of Governors, the Governor, and the General Assembly by September 1 of each year, on four specified pieces of information, including descriptions of barriers to or disruptions of free expression within the constituent institutions.

Directs constituent institutions to include a description of free expression policies in freshman orientation programs.

Authorizes the Board of Governors and the constituent institutions, subject to approval by the Board of Governors, to adopt additional policies and guidelines to further the purposes of the policies required by this Article. Constituent institutions may only restrict student expression for expressive activity not protected by the First Amendment. Lists seven unprotected forms of speech that may be restricted, including peer-on-peer harassment, defined as conduct directed by a student toward another individual student that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively deprives the victim of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the university.

Provides that constituent institutions may only restrict expressive conduct in the public area of campus if the restriction is necessary to achieve a compelling governmental interest, is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest, leaves open ample other opportunities to engage in the conduct, and provides for spontaneous assembly and distribution of literature. Authorizes the Attorney General or any person whose expressive rights are violated under this statute to bring an action against the constituent institution to enjoin the violation. Provides for damages, court costs, and attorneys' fees, and a one-year statute of limitations. Provides that chancellors, other officials, or other employees of constituent institutions are not personally liable for acts taken pursuant to their official duties.

Directs the Board of Governors to develop a policy that requires diversity offices or departments of constituent institutions to ensure compliance with this act, including re-naming the department or office to include the phrase "free speech compliance." Requires diversity and free speech compliance officers to receive training developed and provided by the University of North Carolina School of Government.

Effective June 30, 2017. The Committee on Free Expression's first report is due by September 1, 2018.