AAUP@FHSU


Educational Gag Orders: February Update

Opposition to educational gag orders (EGOs) has really ramped up over the last month. Here are some of the highlights:

University of South Carolina (U of SC) faculty showed up in force to a state committee hearing where educational gag orders were the only bills on the agenda. Several U of SC faculty members gave testimony, speaking strongly against these censorship bills. Our coalition partners at ACLU SC and NAACP Legal Defense Fund gave testimony as well. When all was said and done, the ratio of “opposed” to “in favor” testimony was more than four-to-one.

In Indiana, a hearing on HB 1134 drew over two hundred people, who showed up to voice their opposition to the proposed educational censorship. The state House committee chamber was so packed that several people were unable to get inside. The Indiana Senate has pulled its version of the EGO, and the House version, though still active, has been significantly watered down. There’s consensus among members of our education coalition that continued pressure on Indiana lawmakers could successfully defeat the bill.

Missouri’s coalition is continuing to apply pressure, culminating in a lobby day that’s planned for March 3. The sole focus will be that state’s educational gag orders. There’s currently an effort among some legislators to combine several of the bills (Missouri has over a dozen) into one omnibus and remove the most extreme language. It’s a step in the right direction, but we’ll continue working to defeat the bills outright.

Those are just three examples of the groundswell of opposition we’re seeing across the country. Members of the education community, along with concerned parents and students, are speaking out against educational gag orders in Wisconsin, Georgia, Alabama, West Virginia, and New York—to name just a few of the places where we’re seeing increased resistance.

For a list of all the active bills we’re tracking, visit our Educational Gag Orders dashboard. And don’t forget to check out our EGO landing page to access our draft op-ed, model legislative resolution, and other resources.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Lamore, AAUP Government Relations

Coming to a classroom near you? GETTY


Educational Gag Orders – January Update

We’re a month into state legislative sessions, and there’s a lot happening around educational gag orders. Here are some of the highlights.

Seventy-one educational gag orders have now been introduced in twenty-three states. Thirty of those bills specifically target higher education, with nearly half including punitive measures of some kind—allowing faculty members to be fired, reducing or eliminating funding either for “prohibited” programs or for the entire institution, or allowing monetary damages to be awarded to claimants who file successful lawsuits against an institution or faculty member. AAUP’s EGO Dashboard provides an overview of state legislation, including a list of upcoming hearings. The dashboard updates in real-time, so bookmark it in your browser and check it often!

Some AAUP state conferences and chapters are already taking action against these censorship bills. The Kentucky conference has joined a broader coalition that held a rally on January 12 to protest the bills that have been introduced there. The event received significant press coverage. And in Missouri and Alabama, we’re exploring opportunities to work with coalitions that are very active in fighting back.

At the national level, the AAUP is part of a working group that aims to develop state-level coalitions so that our organizations can fight back together. Other members of the working group include the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, American Civil Liberties Union, African American Policy Forum, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Center for Youth Law.

In addition to our defensive efforts, we’re going on offense where possible. We’ve drafted a legislative resolution in support of academic freedom and accurate teaching on race and racism, and are talking with conference leaders in several states where there’s a strong possibility of getting it introduced.

We’ll send another update at the end of February, so be sure to check your inboxes!

If you have questions about anything, would like more information, or would like help in your state, please contact me at slamore@aaup.org.

In Solidarity,

Stephanie Lamore, AAUP Government Relations


Lawsuit Challenges Classroom Censorship

Yesterday, a group of plaintiffs including the University of Oklahoma chapter of the AAUP filed a lawsuit challenging an Oklahoma law, known as HB 1775, which severely restricts faculty at public universities and K–12 public schools in the state from teaching and talking about race and gender in the classroom.

Oklahoma is one of eight states that have passed similar legislation seeking to suppress discussion about race and gender in the classroom. This is the first federal lawsuit facially challenging one of these statewide bans—that is, arguing that the law is unconstitutional as it is written, not only as it has been applied. The lawsuit argues that HB 1775 chills students’ and educators’ First Amendment right to learn and talk about these issues, and also prevents students from having an open and complete dialogue about American history.

The enactment of HB 1775 has already harmed teachers and students. In public universities, professors fear sanctions for continuing to teach material related to race, gender, and sexual orientation, and some professors have restructured their pedagogy to avoid such topics. Oklahoma school districts have instructed teachers not to use terms including “diversity” and “white privilege” in their classrooms, and have removed important works of literature such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Raisin in the Sun from a list of “anchor texts.” Multiple Oklahoma public schools have also scaled back or eliminated diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings.

In the words of Michael Givel, president of the OU-AAUP chapter, the law “directly curtails academic freedom in public universities in Oklahoma. It has a chilling effect on academic freedom as it can and has purposely targeted Oklahoma public school teachers and administrators from imparting a complete history in our schools, free from censorship or discrimination. Curriculum decisions and what is taught in a college classroom for the promotion of a balanced education are unequivocally protected from outside political requirements and interference. University professors are not sock puppets for the biased ideological agendas of elected politicians.”

The groups are asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and are urging the court to issue a preliminary injunction.

This lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Oklahoma, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and pro bono counsel Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP.

More information about the wave of bills seeking to suppress teaching about race can be found on the AAUP website here. More information about this lawsuit can be found on the ACLU’s website here.

In solidarity,
Risa Lieberwitz, AAUP General Counsel