Imposing Content-Based Restrictions on Teachers Through Law Violates Free Expression
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Pen America, July 5, 2022
(NEW YORK)– Since Republican state legislators began proposing educational gag orders in January 2021, votes on these legislative restrictions on the freedom to read, learn, and teach have generally broken down along partisan lines.
Last week, however, 11 Democrats in the Arizona House of Representatives introduced HB 2634, an unsuccessful bill that would have banned from school curricula “any textbook or other instructional material…that contains any matter reflecting adversely on persons on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, religion, disability, nationality, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
In response, Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America. said: “Government-imposed censorship of students and teachers is always the wrong approach, no matter the motivation, and no matter which side of the political aisle it comes from. Educational gag orders have no place in our schools, period.
Had HB 2634 become law, Arizona teachers might have been unable to assign materials that depict historical or literary instances of discrimination to educate students about why discrimination is wrong — such as the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision or the works of Pulitzer Prizewinning author Toni Morrison. We should never seek to impose content-based restrictions on teachers through the force of law. Doing so violates the principle of free expression and impoverishes student learning in the classroom.”