Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2017

Journal / Book Title

Journal of Legal Education


Following a practice originated online, university faculty and staff have increasingly used “trigger warnings” to alert students to the possibility that they might be affected or even harmed by potentially traumatic material. This practice has led to a passionate debate about whether such warnings stifle or encourage student expression and academic freedom, and whether they are beneficial or detrimental to learning. In this article, we illustrate the history and current state of this debate, and examine the scientific support for the arguments for and against the use of such warnings. Specifically, we question the scientific basis for the suggestion that trigger warnings may foreclose critical analysis, while highlighting the negative impacts of forcing victims of assault to bear their trauma unaided. We discuss the state of research on the impact of trigger warnings on student learning and mental health. The article concludes with recommendations about how to construct and use trigger warnings to enhance rather than constrict classroom conversation, especially in the context of Title IX requirements.

Published Citation

Laguardia, F., Michalsen, V., & Rider-Milkovich, H. (2016). Trigger warnings: From panic to data. J. Legal Educ., 66, 882.