There are many effective ways to respond to censorship challenges. In the past individuals and groups who support free speech have raised awareness about specific incidents and overarching trends through social network groups and causes, including Facebook and Twitter. Individuals have created petitions, organized marches and held ‘read-ins’ of banned materials at local public libraries.

Get Informed:

  • Check out the Kids Right to Read Project‘s Book Censorship Toolkit and First Amendment Guide for more tips and a solid background on students’ rights in schools.
  • Censorship of art and speech is nothing new, but scientists on a quest for knowledge have also found their speech stifled at times. Read more about it on our Science page.
  • Information about human sexuality is often targeted by controlling censors. This affects youth who attend public school, who may find their health education stilted by lack of
    disclosure about sexuality and forms of birth control. Read more about it here.

Speak Your Mind:

  • Send a letter to local newspapers and magazines, or write an “op-ed” article. Such letters are important even if they don’t get printed.
  • Write letters to any and all public officials involved in the situation, including the mayor, city council, and other city officials, superintendent of schools and school board members, members of the library board, state education officials, and anyone else you can think of. Urge them not to give in to pressures for suppression. Say you look
    forward to learning their views. Find your local representative on this website.

Get out there:

  • Attend school board, library board, and PTA meetings and raise the issue. Talk about the importance of free speech to education and democratic institutions. Bring your friends to voice their support.
  • Start a petition or letter-writing campaign. Organize a local anti-censorship group, and publicize your activities on the Internet.
  • Spread the word online: start a Facebook group, a blog, a Twitter account to connect your friends to the issues you care about and to find other people who share your concerns.

Connect with local supporters:

  • Work with community groups, especially professional and civic organizations, and religious groups, to call attention to the problem. Inform members of groups about the situation, hold a public meeting, put an article in the organization’s bulletin, website, or newsletter, and solicit support from the organization’s leadership.
  • If the censorship incident is in a school, get affected parents and students involved. If a teacher is targeted for criticism because s/he used “controversial” materials, it is particularly important to support the teacher-if you ever expect any other teachers to stick their necks out in the future. Circulate a petition in support of the teacher or the materials. Solicit help and support from other teachers and educators. If the school has a teacher’s union, such as the National Education Association (NEA) or American Federation of Teachers (AFT), seek their help.

Connect with organizations:

  • Reach out to other organizations which may have an interest in free speech issues, such as reproductive rights groups like Planned Parenthood, the local ACLU affiliate, organizations concerned with human rights, organizations of writers and artists, theater arts groups, etc., and seek their support and assistance. If you are in a college or university town, seek help from the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).
  • Many of NCAC’s participating organizations can assist you in fighting specific forms of censorship. For example, the National Council of Teachers of English has resources to defend the pedagogical value of commonly challenged materials and suggested techniques for avoiding and defending a challenge.
  • The Student Press Law Center can assist with censorship involving student expression. The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and PEN American Center defend against book censorship. The National Education Association has resources defending free speech as an essential aspect of education, and the American Library Association deals with all aspects of library censorship. The American Association of School Administrators, the American Jewish Congress, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have materials on religion in the public schools. Many more resources are available. For a complete list of, and links to, NCAC participating organizations, click here.

Connect with NCAC:

Celebrate Banned Books Week:

Banned Books Week is the only national celebration of the freedom to read. During the last week of September every year, hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. The 2009 celebration of Banned Books Week will be held from September 26 through October 3. Click here to find out more.