Free Speech and Censorship in High Schools and Elementary Schools

Updated: Mar 15, 2020

A high school Valedictorian in Covington, KY was denied his speech time at graduation after the local diocese of the Catholic school deemed it "inappropriate." He then proceeded to deliver the speech over megaphone where he spoke about the importance of youth activism. Another high school Valedictorian in Petaluma, CA was cut short by a microphone disconnect 4 minutes into her speech when she began to talk about sexual assault on campus. She delivered the speech on YouTube uncensored. A third high school Valedictorian, the first black Valedictorian from University Preparatory Charter School in Rochester, NY, was denied his speech time outright with no explanation from the school administration. He went on to deliver his speech from City Hall after the city's mayor, for whom he interned for 2 years, gave him a platform. A history teacher in a Riverdale private school is under investigation after he conducted a moment of silence for those killed in Gaza. His calling attention to the atrocities against Palestinians sparked outrage among parents and alumni, to which the school is responding by investigating the teacher.

Discussion around censorship and contestation over free speech and critique is often situated within university settings. However, NCA strives to demonstrate how issues in the academy are intimately intertwined with other social issues and other institutions. These four cases highlight how attacks against academic freedom in universities produces anxiety for education administrators generally. The result of that anxiety is repression - the production of an education system devoid of critical inquiry and unnerved by authentic intellectual diversity.

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