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Enacted Campus Free Speech Statutes – California

US Capitol Building

In 1992, California enacted SB 1115, later amended in 2006 by AB 2581, now Cal. Educ. Code § 94367 and § 66301.

SB 1115 Summary

SB 1115, commonly referred to as the “Leonard Law” in honor of its legislative sponsor Sen. William R. Leonard, extended free speech protections to students enrolled in non-religious, private institutions of higher education in California. The law prohibits those institutions, as well as the governing boards of public institutions, from making or enforcing rules that would authorize discipline for students engaging in speech or conduct that would be protected from governmental restrictions under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Section 2 of Article I of the California Constitution.

Key Provisions

  • Prohibits both private (§ 94367) and public (§ 66301) colleges and universities from punishing speech that would be protected off-campus;
  • Creates a cause of action allowing students to file lawsuits to enforce their rights under the statute; and
  • Exempts private institutions that are controlled by a religious organization.

AB 2581 Summary

In 2006, the Leonard Law was amended to add protections for student journalists. Specifically, it prohibits prior restraint of the student press. 

Key Provisions

  • Prohibits administrators at public and private institutions of higher education from subjecting student press to prior restraints.

FIRE Commentary on SB 1115 and AB 2581

Proposed Calif. Bills Address Student Press Freedom