Case Information: Glass et al. v. Paxton et al., No. 17-50641 (5th Circuit brief filed Nov. 20, 2017).
At Issue: In 2016, responding to a newly enacted Texas law, the University of Texas prohibited its faculty from excluding concealed handguns from their classes and from discouraging students from bringing guns to class. The university’s new policy is overwhelmingly opposed by professors nationwide, who understand that the presence of guns harms students and faculty by limiting the educational choices professors may make when structuring classroom discussion to facilitate the free exchange of ideas. Plaintiffs in this lawsuit are University of Texas professors who argue that the statute and policy violates their First Amendment right to academic freedom. Their lawsuit was dismissed on grounds that the plaintiffs failed to adequately allege an injury, and the plaintiffs appealed that decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Giffords Law Center’s Brief: We submitted a joint brief with the American Association of University Professors and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Our brief argues that the professors’ lawsuit should be reinstated because they adequately alleged an invasion of their First Amendment right to academic freedom. Specifically, the Texas law and University of Texas policy violates their right to academic freedom by depriving plaintiffs of the ability to set classroom policies prohibiting guns in accordance with their best educational judgment — a judgment that is amply supported by social science research and other empirical evidence. What’s more, by forbidding the plaintiffs from even discouraging students from bringing guns to class, the university’s policy censors plaintiffs from discussing an important public issue.