Classroom Censorship Laws Sweep the American South - IDRA (2023)

• ByTerrence Wilson, J.D.• IDRA Bulletin • May 2023 •Classroom Censorship Laws Sweep the American South - IDRA (1)

Across the country, particularly in the US South, legislative efforts continued to limit access to accurate and diverse curricula and textbooks by 2023. The practical effect of these laws is that millions of students in the US South have less access to books and curricula. reflect their experience, especially if they identify as Black, Latino, Native, of Color, religious minorities, or LGBTQ+. This article describes developments in classroom censorship that have occurred in the southern United States since last year.


In Alabama, lawmakers are again introducing a pair of "divisive concept" bills. In 2022, lawmakers held hearings on House Bill (HB) 312, which sought to limit discussion of so-called "critical race theory" (CRT), race, gender, and religion in higher education. These hearings featured significant opposition from organizations, individuals, faculty, and faculty members at institutions throughout Alabama. (Griesbach, 2022). This bill passed the Alabama House but failed the Senate.
Undeterred, Alabama lawmakers reintroduced so-called "divisive concepts" legislation in the 2023 legislative session through Senate Bill (SB) 247 and HB 7. complete votes. The session ends in mid-June.

ArkansasClassroom Censorship Laws Sweep the American South - IDRA (2)

In Arkansas, Governor-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued an executive order on her first day in office designed to “ban critical racial indoctrination and theory in schools” (EO23-05). This order directs the state Department of Education to ensure that no policies promote CRT. Likewise, the Arkansas legislature supported this plan through SB 294/Act 237, enacted on March 8, 2023.


Florida's "Don't Say Gay" Act of 2022 (HB 1557/Cap. No. 2022-22) prohibits teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity to students in grades K-3. In 2023, the Florida State Board of Education expanded the measure by applying it to teachers of students in all grade levels (2023).
Florida continued to seek to limit culturally supportive discussions in higher education as well. The Stop WOKE Act (HB 7) is currently barred from passage due to a ruling by U.S. District Court in Tallahassee Judge Mark Walker, which was upheld by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But leaders continued their efforts to censor higher education. New bills, HB 999 and SB 266, sought to remove programs such as critical race theory, critical race studies, critical ethnic studies, radical feminist theory, radical gender theory, queer theory, critical social justice or intersectionality theory from Florida colleges and universities.
HB 999 stalled in the House, but SB 266 passed the legislature. Although the final version of SB 266 was revised to not include these explicit references, it still prohibits events or educational curricula that "teach identity politics" or "are based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent institutions in the United States and was created to perpetuate social, political, and economic inequalities.” This bill was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on May 15, 2023.


In 2022, despite opposition from many, including the new Georgia Coalition Against Classroom Censorship, a coalition coordinated by IDRA and featuring more than 100 teachers, students, parents and organizations, Georgia passed HB 1084, which defines race and racism as "concept dividers " and forbids their teaching (Arciaga, 2022; IDRA, May 2022).
In 2022, lawmakers introduced a version of the "Don't Say Gay" bill via SB 88. The bill would have significantly limited students' ability to discuss and receive information about gender identity and sexual orientation (Arciaga, 2023; Youn, 2023). However, through advocacy by students, parents, educators and various organizations, including IDRA, the bill was watered down significantly and then referred to committee. It is likely to be considered again in 2024.

(Video) Tools for Teaching in a Climate of Classroom Censorship IDRA Webinar 2022


Although no classroom censorship legislation has been filed, one lawmaker has called for accountability in how public undergraduate and graduate schools fund programs and staff related to critical race theory, diversity, equity, inclusion, and transformative socio-emotional learning via the HR 13 resolution was not heard by the Louisiana House Committee on Education.


Mississippi's classroom censorship law was enacted in the spring of 2022 through SB 2113. The law targets public K-12 schools and public institutions of higher education. As of 2023, Mississippi has not passed new classroom censorship legislation.

North Caroline

In 2023, lawmakers introduced HB 187, which replicates so-called "divisive concepts" legislation offered in other parts of the country. Although the bill passed the North Carolina House of Representatives, it has yet to pass the Senate.

Carolina do Sul

South Carolina lawmakers have been the most active in the region when it comes to proposing classroom censorship legislation. HB 3464 would ban the promotion of so-called "critical race theory" in all high schools and post-secondary schools in South Carolina. Politicians also introduced "divisive concepts" bills for public schools through HB 3466, HB 3728, SB 246, and SB 424. Of these, only HB 3728 made it through the legislature, passing through the House Education Committee and the South Carolina Senate.


Tennessee lawmakers are looking to expand the reach of their 2021 Classroom Censor Act through HB 1377/SB 1141. These bills would allow certain residents to file complaints where the law currently only gives that right to students, parents or district officials. This change would make it easier for conservative advocacy groups to block materials or curricula. The companion bills failed the Senate Education Committee. They may be reassessed in 2024.


In 2022, the Texas legislature passed K-12 classroom censorship legislation first in HB 3979 and then SB 3 in a subsequent special session (Castillo, et al., 2022). In 2023, Texas lawmakers sought to ensure that instructional materials only portray the country and state in a positive light, treat all groups “fairly,” and reflect their contributions to the “American way of life” (TLEEC, 2023). This bill, SB 2089, was not voted out of committee.

Politicians filed HB 1804, which contains vague language that could lead to classroom censorship, establish discriminatory "Don't say gay" language, and limit how historical events can be conveyed, compromising the accuracy and quality of these materials (Latham Sikes, 2023). This bill was not voted out of committee.

(Video) How to Effectively Implement Ethnic Studies Curriculum in the Wake of Classroom Censorship - IDRA

SB 13 and HB 900 seek to ban material deemed “harmful” (Duggins-Clay, 2023). Both bills passed their home chambers and are in the second chamber. HB 900 was processed through commissions and will be signed by the governor.

The Legislature is also considering two bills that threaten the quality and affordability of higher education in Texas. SB 17 prohibits diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at colleges and universities. And SB 18 prohibits faculty employment at public institutions of higher education in Texas.


Following Governor Youngkin's 2022 executive order (IDRA, 2022), Virginia lawmakers this year offered HB 1448, which would have required the adoption of model policies for the selection and removal of books in public school libraries, but died after crossing over to the Virginia Senate.
Two other bills focus on parents' access to information about what students can read in school libraries. HB 1903 would require the creation of a portal detailing the content of textbooks and what students are checking out, while SB 1463 would require labels on "sexually explicit" books. These projects had stalled in the committees of their original chambers.


What happens in state legislatures and in the executive offices of governors has a direct impact on marginalized students. Censorship efforts by leaders across the American South affect millions of students who no longer have access to material that reflects and supports their own cultural and personal identities. The negative effects of these policies are numerous and include poor quality curricula; lower morale among teachers, staff and students; limited opportunities for real-world learning and leadership for students; and threats to students' civil rights and safe school climate.

Organizations such as the American Library Association and PEN America are already reporting a record number of challenges to books and materials, and these trends are likely to continue based on continued legislative action across the region (ALA, 2022; Friedman, 2022). PEN America also filed a lawsuit this month against a Florida school district over book bans that limit access to books about race, racism and LGBTQ+ identities.

Watch IDRA's Knowledge is Power email alerts and join IDRA's Southern Education Equity Network ( online for policy and advocacy news.
Offers available online.


ALLAH. (2022). The state libraries' report -special report; Second year of the pandemic. American Library Association.

(Video) Promoting Equity in Schools: Confronting Bias through Culturally Responsive Practices

Arciaga, M. (14. february 2023).LGBTQ+ Students Deserve Schools That Support Their IDRA Identity Testimony Against Senate Bill 88, submitted by Michaela Arciaga, M.A. Ed, to the Georgia Senate Education and Youth Committee.

Arciaga, M. (9 February 2022). Schools Should Value Students' Lived Experiences, Not Censor Them - IDRA Testimony Against HB 1084 Presented to Georgia House Subcommittee on Academic Innovation -se video

Castillo, M., Craven, M., Gómez, & Latham Sikes, C. (2022).What the Texas Classroom Censorship Act Means for Students and Schools. IDRA.

Duggins-Clay, P. (21. marts 2023).Banning books makes schools less welcoming for students to learn, IDRA Testimony against House Bill 900, introduced by Paige Duggins-Clay, J.D., for the Texas House Committee on Public Education.

Duggins-Clay, P. (29. marts 2023).School libraries must reflect and include all students, IDRA Testimony Against SB 13 Submitted to the Texas Senate Committee on Education.

Friedman, F. (april 2022).Banned in the US: Increased bans on textbooks threaten free speech and students' First Amendment rights.American PEN.

FSBE. (March 16, 2023). Rule No.: 6A-0.081: Principles of Professional Conduct for the Florida Education Profession. Florida Administrative Record Volumes 49-52. Florida State Board of Education.

(Video) What is the Difference Between School Culture and Climate? - IDRA

Griesbach, R. (February 24, 2022).Alabama educators oppose CRT bill that would ban 'divisive' concepts from classrooms. BY. how.

HYDRA. (2022).Virginia's Anti-Equity Executive Order 1 does not require schools to limit curriculum or instruction.HYDRA.

IDRA. (May 5, 2022).What is in the Georgia Classroom Censorship Act. Knowledge is power.

Latham Sikes, C. (20. april 2023).Censored restrictions on educational materials lead to classroom censorship, discrimination, and compromised student educationIDRA Testimony Against HB 1804 Submitted to Texas House Committee on Public Education.

PEN America. (May 17, 2023).PEN America files suit against Florida school district over unconstitutional book bans, Press release.

State of Arkansas, Executive Department. (2023). EO23-05:Proclamation banning indoctrination and critical theory about race in schools.

TLEEC. (29. marts 2023).Students Suffer from Censorship in the Classroom TLEEC Testimony Against SB 2089, submitted to the Texas Senate Committee on Education.

(Video) Book bans in America are rising. Here's a look at what's lost.

Youn, R. (1. marts 2023).Senate Bill 88 discriminates against LGBTQ+ students who deserve supportive schools that affirm their identity, IDRA Testimony Against Senate Bill 88 Submitted to the Georgia Senate Education and Youth Committee.

Terrence Wilson, J.D., is IDRA's Director of Regional Policy and Community Engagement. Comments and questions can be directed to him via email at

[©2023, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of the Intercultural Development Research Association's IDRA newsletter. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and due credit is given to IDRA and the author.]


What is censorship in the classroom? ›

Classroom censorship policies are designed to control and limit the free speech and ideas of teachers and students. Such policies deprive students and teachers of the skills, the knowledge and the confidence to have critical conversations in the classroom.

Why shouldn t censorship be allowed in schools? ›

Opponents of bans argue that by restricting information and discouraging freedom of thought, censors undermine one of the primary functions of education: teaching students how to think for themselves. Such actions, assert free speech proponents, endanger tolerance, free expression, and democracy.

What are 3 examples of censorship? ›

  • Political.
  • State secrets and prevention of attention.
  • Religion.
  • Educational sources.
  • Economic induced censorship.
  • Self-censorship.
  • Copy, picture, and writer approval.
  • Reverse censorship.

What is an example of censorship for kids? ›

Types of Censorship

People fight to ban books they do not like from school libraries. School boards pressure teachers not to teach certain subjects in the classroom. Sometimes advertisers do not like the television shows on the channels where their advertisements appear.

How are teachers affected by censorship? ›

Censorship also harms teachers. By limiting resources and flexibility, censorship hampers a teacher's ability to explore all possible avenues to motivate and “reach” students. By curtailing ideas that can be discussed in class, censorship takes creativity and vitality out of the art of teaching.

Why is censorship damaging? ›

Censorship Violates Freedom of Speech

When freedom of speech is restricted, people will be afraid of speaking out about evil practices in society. In the name of blocking harmful information, censorship restricts real information that empowers local communities. The lack of access to truths often leads to ignorance.

Does censorship violate rights? ›

Censors seek to limit freedom of thought and expression by restricting spoken words, printed matter, symbolic messages, freedom of association, books, art, music, movies, television programs, and Internet sites. When the government engages in censorship, First Amendment freedoms are implicated.

Is censorship legal in the United States? ›

Censorship by the government is unconstitutional. In contrast, when private individuals or groups organize boycotts against stores that sell magazines of which they disapprove, their actions are protected by the First Amendment, although they can become dangerous in the extreme.

What limits censorship in the United States? ›

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the freedom of speech and expression against all levels of government censorship. This freedom and protection is an essential component of the American experience and allows our country to have the arguably most diverse population in the world.

What is the most extreme form of censorship? ›

Quote by George Bernard Shaw: “Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.”

Why should censorship be allowed? ›

Censorship does have some benefits. It can protect people from slander intentionally making a false accusation or claim against someone in order to hurt their reputation 8 or violent threats. It can strengthen national security by keeping information away from enemies.

What censorship is legal? ›

The First Amendment protects against censorship imposed by law, but does not protect against corporate censorship, the restraint of speech of spokespersons, employees, or business associates by threatening monetary loss, loss of employment, or loss of access to the marketplace.

How does censorship affect people? ›

Internet censorship can limit individuals' freedom of expression by restricting access to sites where they can speak freely. Some internet censorship may also include the government monitoring citizen's internet activity and speech. This monitoring could lead to people feeling uncomfortable with expressing themselves.

How does censorship affect kids? ›

The Effects of Censorship

Without proper sex education, our girls may grow up believing rumors that they hear that may or may not be true. Censorship in schools can also lead to a narrow worldview with holes in the cultural and international education of our children.

Are schools allowed to censor? ›

The First Amendment protects the people to exercise their rights of free speech as well as the freedom of the press in journalistic practice. Since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1988 decision in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, schools been allowed to censor speech in student media for “legitimate pedagogical concern”.

Are teachers allowed to use profanity? ›

Most districts have policies forbidding profanity in the classroom, so a kind message to the teacher asking him or her to tone it down is certainly justifiable. If it doesn't happen, follow the chain of command. To be fair, some young teachers may not realize that the words they're using are considered profane.

Should schools be censoring what they teach? ›

It protects children from inappropriate content.

By filtering the books and other media that are given to the children, schools can ensure that their students will be exposed only to good values and positive ideas. These, in turn, can help them grow into smart, wise, and responsible adults.

What does Fahrenheit 451 say about censorship? ›

Censorship divides society into those who are compliant, like Montag's wife Mildred, and those who are not, like people who break the law by keeping and reading books. Censorship makes many people not be able to think for themselves, so they are slaves to technology.

How can you avoid censorship? ›

How To Avoid Internet Censorship
  1. VPNs. VPNs are Virtual Private Networks you can connect to that will encrypt your websites visited and device IP addresses. ...
  2. Secure Browser. ...
  3. Don't Use Incognito Mode. ...
  4. Proxy.
Jun 8, 2022

Why is censorship unconstitutional? ›

By virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, the First Amendment's constitutional right of free speech and intellectual freedom also applies to state and local governments. Government agencies and government officials are forbidden from regulating or restricting speech or other expression based on its content or viewpoint.

Does censorship go against the First Amendment? ›

The First Amendment only protects your speech from government censorship. It applies to federal, state, and local government actors. This is a broad category that includes not only lawmakers and elected officials, but also public schools and universities, courts, and police officers.

What are the 3 limits to freedom of speech? ›

First Amendment - Restrictions, Obscenity, Child Pornography, Fighting Words...

How does censorship apply to students? ›

In the United States, censorship more often involves social issues, and in school is commonly directed at so-called “controversial” materials. Advocates for censorship often target materials that discuss sexuality, religion, race and ethnicity–whether directly or indirectly.

What is censorship meaning for kids? ›

Today, censorship means that a person or an institution (like a government) controls what information is shared with the public. Any type of information can be censored, including books, newspaper articles, and radio shows.

What is the role of censorship in schools? ›

By filtering the books and other media that are given to the children, schools can ensure that their students will be exposed only to good values and positive ideas. These, in turn, can help them grow into smart, wise, and responsible adults.

What is censorship and when is it appropriate? ›

Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are "offensive," happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.

Under what conditions can a school censor student speech? ›

If your school thinks your speech likely encourages illegal activities or a substantial disruption of school operations, or it infringes on the rights of other students, it may have the right to censor your speech. You may have to go to court to get a final decision.

What is censorship legally? ›

In the United States, censorship involves the suppression of speech or public communication and raises issues of freedom of speech, which is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Interpretation of this fundamental freedom has varied since its enshrinement.

What are the bad effects of censorship? ›

Censorship Violates Freedom of Speech

When freedom of speech is restricted, people will be afraid of speaking out about evil practices in society. In the name of blocking harmful information, censorship restricts real information that empowers local communities. The lack of access to truths often leads to ignorance.

Can schools censor free speech? ›

Yes. Although students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” school administrators must have the ability to restrict speech that is harmful to other students, in this instance promoting illegal drug use.

What does censorship accomplish? ›

Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove information they judge inappropriate or dangerous from public access, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.

Can public schools censor student speech? ›

The content of speech is evaluated to determine if it causes substantial and material disruption in school activities or administration. If the speech causes such disruption, then it is not protected by the First Amendment and is subject to censorship and/or school discipline.

Is censorship justifiable? ›

From this, it can be inferred that the need for censorship is justifiable because of the prevalence of questionable or immoral material that could erode the moral fabric of societies. In addition, censoring sensitive issues such as racial or religious issues could prevent ethnic and religious strife.


1. A Touch of Hope: How Everyday Teachers Can Make Anything Possible Through Equity Pedagogy - IDRA
2. Highlights for Creating a More Bilingual Texas – IDRA Webinar
3. IDRA National Virtual Youth Summit –Students United for Education Reform
4. Prof. Kenneth Kidd – F is for Florida: Politics and Children’s Literature in the Sunshine State
(Centrum Badań Literatury dla Dzieci i Młodzieży)
5. Threats Against Schools After Uvalde Shooting; SCOTUS Blocks Texas Social Media Censorship Law
(Dr. Jaco Says)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Msgr. Benton Quitzon

Last Updated: 11/04/2023

Views: 6425

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (63 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Msgr. Benton Quitzon

Birthday: 2001-08-13

Address: 96487 Kris Cliff, Teresiafurt, WI 95201

Phone: +9418513585781

Job: Senior Designer

Hobby: Calligraphy, Rowing, Vacation, Geocaching, Web surfing, Electronics, Electronics

Introduction: My name is Msgr. Benton Quitzon, I am a comfortable, charming, thankful, happy, adventurous, handsome, precious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.