Welcome to Student Advocates For Speech

Now Accepting Students for 2023 -2024




To empower the next generation of leaders to advocate for freedom of expression as both a fundamental human right and a keystone of democracy, to fight for their own free speech rights, as well as the rights of those they disagree with, and to promote the essential principles of free expression. 

NCAC will help students advocate for their own speech and the speech of their fellow students, including the right to read, school censorship and amplifying the voices of young people in democratic civic life.


Fighting for Press Freedom: How to be an Advocate for Student Journalism
February 21, 2023

The National Coalition Against Censorship’s Student Advocates for Speech Project and the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) hosted an online discussion Fighting for Press Freedom: How to be an Advocate for Student Journalism.

Teens active in fighting press censorship in their high schools and student activists working with SPLC to advocate for New Voices bills  met with Rachel Oswald, a foreign policy reporter with CQ Roll Call, to discuss the value of a free press and the need to advocate for press freedom.


Are You Free to Read What You Want?
November 30, 2022

NCAC and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators hosted a live virtual discussion: Are You Free to Read What You Want? A conversation between students and banned authors.



NCAC has selected 12 student leaders to launch Student Advocates for Speech clubs in their high schools. Club leaders attended virtual advocacy training and will receive ongoing NCAC guidance and support for their clubs for the 2022-2023 school year.

Clubs will range in size at each school, engaging both official club members and the full student population. The cohort of student leaders will grow in each year of the program to create clubs at additional schools, building a nationwide network of thousands of student advocates for speech.

School clubs will serve as free speech defenders to spread greater awareness of the threats to high school student speech while mobilizing their student communities to get involved.

NCAC will provide advocacy training, guidance on activism to defend banned books and opportunities for leadership on issues like student free press freedom. Students will also receive assistance in amplifying their voices with publishing opportunities.

What does a free speech club do?

Student Advocates for Speech clubs will meet monthly to discuss and promote the essential principles of free expression as they relate to contemporary issues affecting high school students. Activities include:

  • Advocacy letter writing to fight school book bans and support student protest rights
  • Facilitated discussions on free speech issues
  • Writing projects including op-eds, blogs and student newspaper articles
  • Organize events for Banned Books Week and Student Press Freedom Day
  • Mobilize national social media campaigns
  • Represent NCAC at national educator conferences

What skills and benefits will students receive?

  • Direct experience in issue advocacy work
  • Learn about how free speech protections protect all our freedoms
  • Create opportunities for civic dialogue in your community
  • Gain speaking opportunities
  • Receive training/mentorship for advocacy-based writing and publishing
  • Leadership experience in managing controversial issues with discussion, civility and inclusivity

Who should apply?

High school students, 14-18 years old, who have a

  • General commitment to free speech principles
  • Willingness to work to recruit a diverse group of students from different backgrounds and political views
  • Leadership potential and advocacy skills

Leaders will commit to at least 1 hour/week as club leader and must submit two reports on club activities.

** View Student Handbook **

Meet the 2022-2023 Student Leaders

2022 Advocacy Trainers

Betsy Gomez is a publishing professional with experience as an editor, writer, and designer. Her passion for Intellectual Freedom and the right to read has led to her extensive work with organizations and coalitions that defend those rights. Currently, she is the Coalition Director for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Coalition Coordinator for Banned Books Week, member of the advisory board for Reading with Pictures, and a Board Member for the Media Coalition. She is also the editor of the CBLDF book, CBLDF Presents: She Changed Comics. 

Hadar Harris headshot

Hadar Harris, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center, is an award winning human rights attorney, champion of free expression, and non-profit leader. She joined the Student Press Law Center as Executive Director in the fall of 2017 and since then has focused on supporting, promoting and defending the First Amendment rights of student journalists and their advisers. Previously, she served as the executive director at the Northern California Innocence Project, the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law, and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. Hadar is recipient of the Rafael Lemkin Human Rights Award. 

Emily Kirkpatrick, Executive Director of the National Council of Teachers of English, is known for creating humanistic innovations that merge research, policy, and practice to address persistent societal inequities. A transformative leader, Ms. Kirkpatrick has dedicated her career to public service and civic engagement, seeking to increase national literacy and social mobility, educational justice and equity, and advancing the inclusion and empowerment of women. A hallmark of her leadership is working shoulder to shoulder with educators, parents, and students to develop novel approaches to literacy. Efforts she has led have received international and national recognition, cross-sector financial investment, and attracted the partnership of the world’s most admired thought leaders, corporations, and institutions. Kirkpatrick holds an MBA from Bellarmine University, a bachelor’s degree from Centre College, and is a member of the International Women’s Forum, American’s Languages Initiative, the Conference of Executive Officers at the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Public Policy Committee for the American Society of Association Executives among other leadership roles.

Erin McLaughlin, MAPP, M.Ed. Creating positive cultural change in institutions through viewpoint diversity is Erin’s main passion. Viewpoint diversity was the subject of her capstone project that earned a mark of distinction at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a master’s degree in applied positive psychology in 2017. For the past five years, Erin has remained dedicated to her teaching career while also founding Positive-Ed Consulting, LCC, to share her ideas and practices with the broader community. She has worked with private and public institutions, had her ideas about viewpoint diversity education featured in The Atlantic, and continues to offer talks and training centered around her methodologies.

Lin Oliver is a children’s book author, writer-producer of family and children’s television series, and movies, a former Vice-President of Universal Studios, and co-founder of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She served as the Executive Director of SCBWI from its inception in 1971 until 2022. While Lin mostly writes funny books, such as Who Shrunk Daniel Funk? novels, she also writes about challenges people face. The New York Times best-selling book series Hank Zipzer: World’s Best Underachiever, which she co-wrote with Henry Winkler, is about a boy with learning differences. Her latest novels, ALIEN SUPERSTAR, which detail the adventures of an alien who arrives in Hollywood to star in his own television Oshow, provide a satiric look at our culture and a commentary on authoritarian regimes.  Lin, a college student (and hippie) who marched for peace and protested war, attended UCLA and UC Berkeley where she majored in English, and received a Masters in Educational Psychology. Reflecting on her college days, Lin says, “I’m glad I attended school when young people were speaking up about world politics and taking a role to shape our government and change our future.”