So-called college free-speech zones may soon be just a memory in Georgia after the Senate passed a bill on Monday to expand free-speech zones in Georgia public schools. campus-wide.

“House Bill 1 will protect and clarify the First Amendment rights that our students should enjoy at our public colleges and universities,” said Sen. Bruce Thompson, a White Republican who took the bill through the Senate. . “The bill seeks to accomplish this in two ways, first, by protecting what students can say, second, by protecting where they can exercise their freedom of expression.”

The House passed the legislation last month, so it is now up to the governor to sign it into law. The bill clarifies that colleges cannot disrupt lawful free speech and requires them to allow protests on all unrestricted outdoor areas of campus, although they may impose restrictions on time, location and the mode of demonstration, for example by prohibiting late-night demonstrations or particularly noisy demonstrations. .

Democrats have argued that the bill’s language is too vague and could unintentionally stifle free speech by removing the right of students to stage a counter-protest against a speaker they find objectionable.

Atlanta Democratic Sen. Elena Parent called supporters hypocrites for also backing bills to ban discussions of divisive racial concepts in K-12 classrooms.

“I think they’re missing, senator, an intellectual guideline that establishes some sort of fundamental guiding principle when it comes to free speech,” she said. “One says we don’t value free speech, the other says we do, and so I find them hypocritical, and frankly, just pandering to incidents that really don’t matter. of importance, inviting the need for state-level legislation, for people who are frankly misinformed and had been propagated by right-wing media.

During committee hearings on the bill, students and activists said the bill would protect groups who yell at and bully students because of their race or religion.

Thompson, who is running for state labor commissioner, listed cases in which Georgian universities have been sued over allegations that they unlawfully blocked students from speaking.

“Students continue to go to school under contrary policies, hear me out, contrary to Supreme Court First Amendment precedent, harming our students, as well as the culture of colleges,” he said. he declares.

“What this seeks to do is give colleges the ability to make sure they’re not being prosecuted for this,” he added. “Make no mistake about it. It’s not for the right or the left, it’s for all our students.