Enacted Campus Free Speech Statutes – Kentucky

In 2017, Kentucky enacted SB 17, now Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 158.183. In 2019, Kentucky enacted HB 254, now Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 164.348, which amended the earlier bill and added new protections.

SB 17 Summary

SB 17 provides protections for religious and political student organizations, and prohibited public institutions of higher education from quarantining student speech to “free speech zones.”

Key Provisions

  • Allows religious and political student organizations equal access to public forums on the same basis as nonreligious and nonpolitical student organizations;
  • Prohibits colleges and universities from discriminating against religious and political student organizations based on the organization’s determination that only students committed to its mission may become a member of the organization;
  • Ensures student religious and political viewpoints in the classroom and on assignments are not discriminated against; and
  • Mandates that the selection of students speaking at official university events is made in a viewpoint-neutral way, and that institutions may not alter student remarks except in a viewpoint-neutral manner.
  • Eliminates “free speech zones” at public institutions of higher education in the state;

FIRE Commentary on SB 17

Kentucky’s controversial ‘Charlie Brown’ bill has two provisions worth celebrating


HB 254 Summary

HB 254 is a comprehensive free speech bill that requires public colleges and universities to adopt policies similar to the University of Chicago Free Speech Policy Statement, prohibits institutions from quarantining student speech to misleadingly labeled “free speech zones,” and ensures student organizations are allowed to invite guest speakers to campus.

Key Provisions

  • Requires the governing board of a public postsecondary education institution to adopt policies similar to the University of Chicago Free Speech Policy Statement;
  • Guarantees that open, outdoor areas of campus be free from “free speech zones” by making technical improvements to the provision earlier passed in SB 17;
  • Mandates institutions create policies to ensure students and faculty do not substantially obstruct or otherwise substantially interfere with the freedom of others to express views;
  • Ensures student organizations are not denied access to student fees based on the viewpoints of that student organization;
  • Ensures students and faculty may invite guest speakers of their choice;
  • Ensures students are not charged fees based on the content of their speech or the content of the speech of their invited speakers, or the anticipated reaction of those opposing the speaker;
  • Prohibits institutions from “disinviting” speakers invited by student organizations or professors; and
  • Provides a cause of action for any person whose expressive rights protected by the bill were violated.

FIRE Commentary on HB 254

Kentucky House leadership to decide today whether campus free speech bill proceeds

New Law gives Kentucky College students ‘broadest possible latitude’ for free speech