AAUP@FHSU


Educational Gag Orders – March Update

Ten states have already adjourned their regular legislative sessions for the year. As a result, thirty-one educational gag order bills (EGOs) we had been tracking are now inactive. Though special sessions are possible in all adjourned states, they have only been convened in New Mexico and Virginia, where they will focus solely on economic and budget issues.

An additional thirteen bills have died or been tabled in legislatures that are still in session. We’ve gone from tracking 125 bills to tracking fewer than eighty—still a lot, but considerably fewer.

The assault against academic freedom and teaching about racism remains extraordinarily strong, but in addition to the bills that have fallen off our list for this year, we continue to see good news and member success in fighting back.

Last month, I mentioned that HB 1134, a bill in Indiana, had stalled following an extraordinary show of opposition from AAUP members, K–12 teachers, staff, students, and parents. I am glad to tell you that the bill is now effectively dead. AAUP members and chapters in Indiana joined with other organizations and coalitions to make their voices heard, and it worked. The Purdue-West Lafayette AAUP chapter passed a statement in opposition to the bill, which was sent to every legislator who represents the university’s district. Faculty, including AAUP members, at Indiana University Bloomington worked through the group University Faculty for Racial Justice (UFRJ), which was formed specifically to defeat HB 1134. UFRJ gathered over 200 faculty signatures on an open letter that pressured IU to take a stand against the bill. The group organized numerous actions, including phone calls, emails, and faculty testimony at legislative committee hearings. This is the exponential power of collective action. Every person, chapter, and organization that spoke up and showed up combined into one powerful voice that succeeded in stopping HB 1134 in its tracks.

In Georgia, the situation has improved for higher education, which has been removed from all active EGOs. But the legislature there continues to pursue educational gag orders targeting K–12, while simultaneously refusing to hear testimony from students who have expressed opposition to one of the bills (HB 1034).

In Mississippi, SB 2113 was passed by the legislature and approved by governor Tate Reeves. The silver lining is that, out of the eleven bills that had been active in Mississippi, SB 2113 is the least egregious. It prohibits schools (including higher ed institutions) from compelling students to “affirm, adopt, or adhere” to the ideas that 1) one race is superior or inferior to another, or 2) that a person should be “adversely treated” based on their gender, race, etc. There is no enforcement mechanism.

If you or your chapter are looking for ways to make a strong statement regarding academic freedom, consider participating in the April 30 March for Education. Organized by the Missouri Equity Education Partnership, the March for Education is an opportunity to connect and organize with other education professionals, teachers, parents, and concerned community members in a show of strength and support. Legislators determined to attack free speech, free and open inquiry, and academic freedom need to know that we’re not only watching what they do, but that we will not sit quietly on the sidelines while they attempt to censor history and silence faculty. The March for Education website includes step-by-step guidance for hosting a march in your city.

Thank you for everything you’ve done these last few months to fight back against educational gag orders. We’ve experienced some success, and I have no doubt that there’s more success to come with your help!

In solidarity,

Stephanie Lamore, AAUP Government Relations


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


Significant Supreme Court Decisions

We want to highlight two significant and startlingly positive Supreme Court decisions that came out this week with important implications for many faculty and students—and for higher education in general. In both cases the AAUP joined an amicus brief for the prevailing side.

In Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, et al., the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender workers due to its prohibition of discrimination based on sex. The ruling allows employees discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or transgender status to sue. While questions remain about the rights of religious employers and practical details such as bathrooms and locker rooms, the court emphatically states that “employers are prohibited from firing employees on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status.” Read a summary of the decision and amicus brief.

In Department of Homeland Security et al. v. Regents of the University of California et al., the Supreme Court blocked the current administration’s attempts to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The DACA program allows undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to remain in the country legally and expands access to higher education by providing eligibility for in-state tuition and state-funded grants and loans to participants. However, the ruling leaves open the possibility that this administration may try again to eliminate DACA. As the court states, “The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so.” Read a summary of the decision and amicus brief.

The AAUP applauds these rulings and believes they provide critical support for members of the AAUP community and the students it serves. We emphatically support protections against discrimination, and our legal work reflects our commitment to promoting diversity, tolerance, and openness on university campuses.

The AAUP