High school interscholastic athletic competition; prevention of hate speech, etc. (SB285)

Introduced By

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


High school interscholastic athletic competition; prevention of hate speech and ethnically or racially insensitive expressions. Requires the organization governing high school athletics and academic activities for public and approved nonboarding nonpublic high schools (the organization), with such funds as may be appropriated by the General Assembly for such purpose pursuant to the general appropriation act, to develop (i) rules and standards for the prevention of inequities involving the use of hate speech or ethnically or racially insensitive expressions during athletic and academic competitions sponsored by the organization's member schools, (ii) procedures for the enforcement of and penalties for the violation of such rules and standards, and (iii) training materials on such rules and standards. The bill requires each member school of the organization to abide by and implement such rules, standards, procedures, and penalties and ensure that each student who will participate in high school interscholastic athletic or academic competition, the parent of each such student, and each individual, whether paid or unpaid, who coaches a team that will participate in high school interscholastic athletic or academic competition receives and reviews such training materials. The bill requires the organization to make part of the process to become a registered official in good standing for any association offering services to the organization an education and training requirement that is consistent with the training materials developed by the organization. The bill has a delayed effective date of January 1, 2023. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/11/2022Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/12/22 22100981D
01/11/2022Referred to Committee on Education and Health
01/12/2022Assigned Education sub: Public Education
01/27/2022Senate committee, floor amendments and substitutes offered
02/01/2022Impact statement from DPB (SB285)
02/03/2022Senate committee, floor amendments and substitutes offered
02/03/2022Failed to report (defeated) in Education and Health (7-Y 8-N) (see vote tally)


Fred Woehrle writes:

A law professor says this bill is unconstitutional. It seems to reach even private schools. And it targets "hate speech," which the First Amendment protects in many settings.

Law professor Eugene Volokh says the bill is accordingly a violation of the First Amendment. See Eugene Volokh,
"Virginia Bill Would Require Rules 'for the Prevention of Inequities Involving the Use of Hate Speech or Ethnically or Racially Insensitive Expressions,'" Reason, January 13, 2022.

His explanation is available at this link: https://reason.com/volokh/2022/01/13/virginia-bill-would-require-rules-for-the-prevention-of-inequities-involving-the-use-of-hate-speech-or-ethnically-or-racially-insensitive-expressions/

He says, among other things:

"The bill doesn't make clear whether the rules would be limited to students or would cover spectators as well. A restriction on 'hate speech' or 'ethnically or racially insensitive expressions' (even if defined precisely enough by the "rules or standards" to avoid unconstitutional vagueness) by spectators would be a viewpoint-based restriction on private speech, and thus unconstitutional. There is no 'hate speech' exception to the First Amendment; but it's telling that the Legislature doesn't seem satisfied even with the ill-defined concept of 'hate speech,' but seeks to extend the prohibition to an even broader category of 'ethnically or racially insensitive expressions.' Public schools would have more authority over vulgarities said by their students at school-sponsored events (under Bethel School Dist. No. 3 v. Fraser) and over speech that disrupts the event (under Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Comm. School Dist.). But I doubt that all 'ethnically or racially insensitive expressions' would qualify; whether 'hate speech' would qualify would depend on how it's defined. (See, e.g., then-Judge Alito's opinion in Saxe v. State College Area School Dist. (3d Cir. 2001), striking down a public high school speech code.) And I doubt that the government can force private schools to impose viewpoint-based restrictions on their students, even as a condition of participating in a competitions with public schools."