Webinar: Gaslighting, Cancel Culture, or Free Speech: Lessons for Schools from the Yale Law School “Trap House” Controversy

In September, Yale Law School became the center of the ongoing debate over race-based speech in American schools. Join us on November 11, 2021, at 1 p.m. for a free webinar addressing lessons learned from the case. Thompson & Horton First Amendment and civil rights authorities Chris Gilbert and Jackie Gharapour Wernz will join two national journalists who have reported extensively on the incident, Joe Patrice and Aaron Sibarium. Submit your questions for the reporters and attorneys through registration or live during the webinar.

Our panel will include:

  • Chris Gilbert: Chris is a partner in the Houston office of Thompson & Horton. He has represented school districts and institutions of higher education for over 20 years. Much of Chris’s practice is dedicated to the role of the First Amendment, and he has litigated and advised clients on all aspects of that topic.
  • Joe Patrice: Joe writes for Above the Law. He has argued that Yale Law School has the right to limit student speech that is racially insensitive and disruptive to others.
  • Aaron Sibarium: Aaron is an associate editor at the Washington Free Beacon and a Yale graduate. His reporting has focused on concerns that Yale’s response to the incident was overreach and violated free speech principles.
  • Jackie Gharapour Wernz: Jackie is a partner in the Dallas office of Thompson & Horton. As a former civil rights attorney with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Jackie has a deep understanding of civil rights law, including prohibitions on discrimination based on race. She is a sought-after national speaker, media commentator, and expert witness in civil rights matters.

The Case

In mid-September, a second-year Yale law student invited classmates to a party hosted by two student groups, the Native American Law Students Association and the Federalist Society. The invitation referred to the party as a “Trap House” and referenced serving, among other things, “Popeye’s chicken.” According to Urban Dictionary, one definition of a trap house is a “crack house in a shady neighborhood.” Students who saw the email, including representatives of the school’s Black Law Student Association, almost immediately criticized the email, claiming its language was racist and misogynistic. Law school administrators met with the student and encouraged him to apologize. When he refused, they issued a statement condemning the email. Schools at all levels should be aware of this case and what it means for balancing free speech and nondiscrimination in schools.

Register here.