PEN America Publishes New Report on 2023 Censorship Efforts in PK-12 and University Classrooms
PEN America’s new report, America’s Censored Classrooms 2023: Lawmakers Shift Strategies as Resistance Rises, written by program director Jeremy C. Young and research consultant Jeffrey Adam Sachs has now been published, highlighting the progress of educational gag orders as a result of state legislative sessions in 2023.
The report finds that, while the threat of gag orders has not diminished this year, the form and structure of such laws have changed dramatically. According to the report, more gag orders became law this year than in 2022, though fewer were introduced.
In PK-12, there was a major shift away from critical race theory (CRT) bans toward “Don’t Say Gay” bills, many of them as a result of Florida’s law last year. These bills attempted to censor any mention of gender, sexuality, or identity in the classroom, including extending some bans all the way through grade 12. In higher education, there was a shift away from classroom restrictions and toward limits on university governance processes that protect academic freedom. Diversity and inclusion bans, curricula, general education courses, accreditation agencies, and even university mission statements were censored, particularly in Florida, and Texas, and a bill still under consideration in Ohio.
AACTE has worked specifically in the efforts to combat censorship in classrooms across the United States, for the sake of students and teachers.
“AACTE is a national leader in the fight to protect educators from state-mandated censorship,” Young said. “They are one of PEN America’s earliest and closest partners in combating educational gag orders and other educational censorship legislation that censors preservice teachers. Their reports, advocacy, and coalition-building have been central to the success of this effort, and PEN America is proud to call AACTE an ally in protecting the freedom to learn.”
The report also includes stories from teachers and professors in affected states, collected from several published surveys; a discussion of legal and political resistance to gag orders; a forecast of likely legislative trends in 2024; a revamped, sortable Airtable Index of Educational Gag Orders; and a redesigned Educational Censorship page containing data visualizations and practical tools for taking action against gag orders in your community.
PEN America’s full guide on educational censorship is available online.