Censorship in Schools – Where Should (or Shouldn’t) Schools Stand? [IEP 030]
High school and college students who are interested in being active and getting involved in social justice issues, on and off campus, should be encouraged. Instead, many schools and administrators still try to suppress any such efforts by students. Is this ok? How progressive (or not) should schools be when it comes to encouraging their students to be involved in the community in that way? Let’s talk about it.
Full show transcript located at the bottom of this post.
What We Discuss in This Episode:
- Is it important for schools to be progressive when it comes to social justice issues and gender equality? Or is it not a school’s place to take a stance on those issues?
- Should teachers speak up and promote equality and individuality?
- Free speech zones on college campuses and how “free” they really are
- What the First Amendment protects
- Minors are constantly being indoctrinated with messages, from media to sports to politics
- Words used in messages directed at students, especially minors, should be examined closely because they can affect children
Thank you for listening!
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Full Show Transcript
Vickie B.: Welcome to the Inclusive Education Project. I’m Vickie Brett.
Amanda S.: I’m Amanda Selogie. We’re two civil rights lawyers on a mission to change the conversation about education, civil rights, and modern activism.
Vickie B.: Each week, we’re going to explore new topics, which are going to educate and empower others.
Amanda S.: And give them a platform to enact change in education and level the playing field.
Vickie B.: Welcome back to the Inclusive Education Project podcast. I feel like it’s a mouthful.
Amanda S.: It is a mouthful. And I feel like you have to talk slowly to make sure you say it right. Or at least I do.
Vickie B.: Actually, I don’t think that we talk very slowly.
Amanda S.: We never do, but you just talk a little bit slower to make sure you got it right.
Vickie B.: I did, I did. I was being very thoughtful, for us, this morning. Usually, we record in the afternoons, but today, we decided to mix it up because change is good, and we’re doing it in the morning so I’m not with it.
Amanda S.: And I have an IEP meeting this afternoon.
Vickie B.: Well that too, I guess.
Amanda S.: It’s IEP season.
Vickie B.: Yeah, I know, I was looking at my calendar and just … ‘Cause a lot of people are done in June. A lot of students come out. But for us, there’s districts that end in May, but then start up in early August. So there’s no down time for us, really.
Amanda S.: No. Little bit in July.
Vickie B.: But you’re making room. You’re going to Boston soon, which will be fun.
Amanda S.: Yes. When this airs, I think it’ll air … What will that be? The 22nd. So I leave for Boston on the 24th. I think we’ve talked about this. I’m running a half marathon in Boston. The Boston Run to Remember, so it is meant to support first responders, police department, fire department, and paramedics. And I actually just read yesterday that it’s a fundraising challenge. So there’s precincts from all over the country that can put together teams to-
Vickie B.: Oh, they didn’t offer that as an option for you to fundraise?
Amanda S.: Well, I’m not part of a precinct.
Vickie B.: That’s what I’m saying.
Amanda S.: I think the whole thing is a fundraiser. The money that … It’s made from volunteers, so the money … You pay to register and all of that, I guess, goes to … So I don’t know if the money then goes to charities that these departments plan for or what not, but it’ll be interesting ’cause it sounds like there’s going to be people who are running in full gear and everything.
Vickie B.: That’s exciting-
Amanda S.: Maybe some good looking firefighters.
Vickie B.: Maybe. But what I’m most excited about … This just popped in my head, is the royal wedding.
Amanda S.: Oh yeah, that is today, right?
Vickie B.: It’s either today or tomorrow at noon, but it’s 4:00 AM our time.
Amanda S.: Okay, so then I think that’s tonight. Or tomorrow morning, I guess.
Vickie B.: Yeah, tomorrow … Whatever. It’s at noon in England, and then but if we want to watch it live, it’s 4:00 AM here. So I don’t know.
Amanda S.: Don’t think I’m doing that.
Vickie B.: Unless I wake up in the middle of the night and then I’m like, awake, then-
Amanda S.: Do you remember watching the last royal wedding? We were in law school then.
Vickie B.: Were we?
Amanda S.: Yeah. I think it was my first year. ‘Cause I remember studying for finals and being in the library and taking breaks to look at coverage of stuff.
Vickie B.: It does sound familiar. Yeah, that does sound familiar.
Amanda S.: Nice little study break.
Vickie B.: But yeah, it should be interesting. Prince Harry’s always been just different and breaking tradition. I don’t know if that seems to be … Their big thing, and LGBTQ rights and [inaudible 00:03:47], which is really cool. So I was listening to NPR and they were talking about a lot of different organizations, ’cause she’s from LA, that are going to be watching high teas, where charities that support those two causes will get together and fundraise and stuff. So that seems really cool.
But I think what’s most important is being able to stick to something and really put all their effort in. And I think one of the things, as attorneys, that we know and are aware of, is the first amendment. And you had told me about something that you had seen posted regarding censorship, right?
Amanda S.: Yeah. So I live in Huntington Beach, some listeners may know. And I am part of … There’s all these forums on Facebook, so I’m part of the Huntington Beach community forum. And I love living in Huntington Beach because I’m so close to the beach, and I love the beach, but sometimes I get very frustrated with the people who live in the city that I live in. And this morning was one of those moments, because someone … So apparently, Huntington Beach High School, this week is their social justice week. And someone posted on the forum, a picture of this poster. And I’m going to read you the poster and then I’ll read you the poster’s comment, because I was very upset by the way this person is handling. And there were a lot of comments that were in support, and others that … It was very mixed.
So the poster says, HBHS Bridges, so I’m guessing that’s the program that puts on the social justice week. It says, dear boys, pink is not a girl’s color. You do not have to man up. Real men do cry. End toxic masculinity. And the person’s comment says, how is this okay at Huntington Beach High School? Someone want to lie to me and tell me our children aren’t being indoctrinated? Since when is it bad to be a man who is masculine? Whoever put this up should be fired. These kids have a right to an education without progressive brainwashing.
My first thought is, you trying to censor this type of thing is brainwashing. And not to mention the fact that it’s a student poster. Students made it.
Vickie B.: Yeah, it comes from the thinking that the teachers or something like that are trying to indoctrinate our children. And if you haven’t guessed, we’re going to be talking about censorship today. That’s where we’re going. But for Huntington Beach High School to even have what you would call social justice week, I would imagine maybe their Amnesty International or maybe some of their other organizations probably put this together. And to me, social justice week is just probably an array of topics that they get to pick, and then the SPA or whatever, ASB, gets to put these posters up, and just start conversations.
Amanda S.: And we’re seeing more and more of our younger generation speaking up and getting more involved. I remember back when we were in high school, there were a number of people who were politically aware, or aware of what’s going on in the world. But many high school students were in their own world, they were in their own bubble. And so to see high school students becoming more aware and getting more involved, it’s very good. It’s a good thing. We talk about … I think last week, we talked about how education is not just K through 12, but it’s everyone being educated about the world around us and what’s going on and how we can better ourselves and better the world.
And so having high school students that are wanting to do that and are wanting to start a conversation about some of these things, it’s a good thing. To say that they can’t put up posters like this, is exactly censorship. Or saying that we’re not allowing them to see both sides of the spectrum.
Vickie B.: So it’s interesting, I just looked this up, and there was an article from quite a while ago. Looks like 2014, from the Los Angeles Times. And it’s just talking about Huntington Beach High School, and just different topics that they discuss through their Bridges program, which is a program of the OC Human Relations Council that educates teens, county-wide, on how to create safe school environments. And then different organizations from the high school actually co-organize the event. And it looks like the Bridges program is year-long. And they talk about anything from bullying to poverty, racism, gay and lesbian equality. It seems like it’s just a wide array of topics. And this year, special shout out to one of our favorite podcasts of all time actually giving us inspiration to think that we could do our own podcast, is the My Favorite Murder podcast, which I’m sure we’ve talked about before with-
Amanda S.: I think a little bit.
Vickie B.: … with Karen and Georgia. Shout out to those ladies. Toxic masculinity is something that they talked about very early on, and people do hashtags and get tattoos of it. And it’s more so talking about the culture in which we have boys are blue and girls are pink, and a guy has to … Actually, this is so crazy. I just saw this Summer’s Eve commercial, and Summer’s Eve is a feminine product. And so the wife or girlfriend, whatever, is in the bathroom, and her husband, boyfriend, is in the shower. And he’s like, “Oh, this new soap is great,” and she’s just like, “Oh yeah, it’s my Summer’s Eve. It’s perfect PH for my V.” She literally says that. “For my V.”
And then his face just goes, oh my god. And then it’s a series of him eating raw eggs, mowing a lawn, welding a freakin’ Knights helmet. All these really masculine things. And then he sits down on the couch, and she’s like, “Wow, that was close.” Or something like that. Like oh my god, you’re going to turn into … And that’s the cultural bias, right? That’s what we have. And so this poster, to me, is just pointing out a couple of things such as pink isn’t just for girls, and it’s okay to cry-
Amanda S.: And it’s not saying that it’s not okay to be masculine. It’s you can be whoever you damn well please. If you feel like you want to wear pink as a boy, just the same as we talk about gender specific toys with young kids. Why girls have to have Barbies and boys have to have GI Joe, why can’t it be the other way around if they want it? If girls … One of my nieces loves dinosaurs. That’s okay. And if a boy wants to dress up in a princess outfit, that’s okay, and go to Disneyland.
Vickie B.: I just think a poster that … By the time you’re in high school, you’ve probably indoctrinated your child with your own biases. So a poster that they’re going to see for a week is probably not going to do anything. But it’s one of those things where they don’t even understand, or they don’t even want to take the time to try to understand. ‘Cause I’m sitting here and I’m like, okay, I’m trying to figure out why this person is so upset. And one, it’s because they think a teacher is the one that wrote this. So let’s just start from there-
Amanda S.: And let me just say, why is that a bad thing? Granted, yes, I think it’s important for students to be able to speak their mind. But why is it okay for people to say that teachers should have guns, but it’s not okay for a teacher to say, “You be you. You do you.” Right? Even if a teacher did write this, which they didn’t, why is that a bad thing? They’re promoting equality. They’re promoting individuality.
Vickie B.: I’m just confused. What is it that we are supposed to be teaching our children? You know what I’m saying? Is it just reading, writing, and arithmetic?
Amanda S.: Apparently, this person thinks so.
Vickie B.: I just don’t-
Amanda S.: But I would wonder, because of course, he says, the kids have a right to education without progressive brainwashing. So it’s okay to have alt right brainwashing? Is that okay? Because to me, that’s making it seem like, well it’s not your viewpoint, so we’re not allowed to teach the kids that. Same with how Fox News and many media outlets only show one side of the story. And granted, yes, there are sides on the left that do the same thing. I’m not saying that it’s right.
But the thing is, is that if we’re going to truly teach our kids how the world works and how to better open their mind and be better citizens, we need to show them both sides. They need to see the honest truth. They need to see what’s going on, and be able to formulate their own opinion. But if we censor what they’re being taught and what they’re allowed to learn, it’s going to be a problem.
And we’re seeing this as being a huge problem on college campuses, where these are over 18 year olds, so these are adults now, but they’re young adults. They’re still … They’re just coming out of their shell. They’re probably, for the first time in their life, making independent decisions about what they’re going to do. And we’re seeing a lot of issues with this free speech zones being charted, and there’s a real controversy about which side supports which. So we have these college campuses creating these free speech zones which, on one hand, you think, oh, free speech zones, that’s going to be great because we’re allowed to have free speech. But in reality, what it does is it’s actually regulating the free speech and saying that free speech is actually not free because on certain part of campus, you can’t have free speech.
But then we have … I just had pulled up an article that was actually in February, and I don’t know that this bill has come about, but I guess Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah, Republican, announced that he was introducing legislation to quote unquote protect free speech on campus. So the bill is called the Free Right to Expression and Education Act, which, in this article, says would prohibit public institutions of higher education from quarantining free expression into small, misleading labeled free speech zones on their campuses.
But what I’m wondering is, we have these concerns with things happening in … What happened in Berkeley, was that last year?
Vickie B.: I think so. Or at least two years ago.
Amanda S.: Where there’s some censorship when it comes to if someone is speaking on campus that would incite hate or violence, is that an exception to free speech, and should we be looking at what it incites in people, and is it no longer just free speech? Is it something more? So is this introduction of this bill not actually promoting the idea of free speech, but making sure that certain groups are able to hold these rallies? And we saw what happened in Charleston.
Vickie B.: Right.
Amanda S.: What these rallies insight.
Vickie B.: I think Berkeley was a unique place because the free speech movement, they were really at the front of it in the ’60s. And so what it was … For those of you that may not remember, basically, what ended up happening was that they had canceled a speech by Ann Coulter, and had to reverse course and said, okay, well now you can come. And it was this whole big thing. But they had done it because they felt that it would incite violence, or that security reasons … Having extra security would cost the university so much. But it just sparked all this criticism because they’ve been seen as a symbol of free speech, all across America. And so that’s why people were just like wait, what is going on? You guys gave birth to free speech and now you’re just not?
And it’s hard, and they’ve been dealing with it and a lot of college campuses have been dealing with it, and people on the other side, or just taking a different approach, say, “We can’t have these kids in a bubble, they shouldn’t live in these liberal spheres.” Just like we’re saying, there’s two sides to every story and so they should be able to have access, but where is the line insofar as what it’s going to cost the university and/or what is going to happen as a result of having someone there?
Free speech … I get this all the time, and people on Facebook think, oh, if you delete a comment, you don’t believe in free speech. And it’s just like, that’s my personal Facebook. I’m not saying I’m deleting comments, but it’s my personal Facebook, so if I don’t want to hear what you’re saying, I can just delete you. It’s free speech and the government. Free speech is not free. It’s restricted. You cannot yell “Fire” in a theater.
Amanda S.: Right, there are exceptions to free speech. When we look at what the first amendment grants us in the Constitution, it read, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right of people peacefully to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances. It’s not a all hold barred, let’s just open up a can of worms, we can do whatever we want. That’s not what the Constitution says. There are some limits, and we learned this in our Constitutional Law class. There are some circumstances where you have to weight a balance of factors. It’s not just a, you have free speech so you can do whatever you want. There’s limits.
Vickie B.: Yeah. And so when we have minors like we do in Huntington Beach, and the fear is that we’re shoving a certain rhetoric down their throat, we shove all sorts of different rhetoric down kids’ throats. Through commercials, or … And that’s what you’re talking about, with toys and the marketing and things like that. We’re constantly shutting down rhetoric. Patriotism, LA Lakers, LA Kings, oh, no, you’re Ducks fan. There’s all these sort of things that we … And so then it’s interesting for people to just start … And everybody is going to have an opinion, right?
Amanda S.: Well, and I just want to go back to this poster, in the sense that this poster is not inciting anything but, essentially, feel free to be yourself. I don’t see this poster as saying, you cannot be something. It’s not saying, boys, you can’t wear pink, or you have to wear pink. It’s not saying, you have to man up or you can’t man up. It’s not saying real men have to cry, or real men can’t cry. It’s saying, you can wear pink. You don’t have to man up if you don’t want to. It’s the idea of … And there was a comment that I read that said something like, oh, are we going to start telling girls they don’t have to put on their big girl pants? Well-
Vickie B.: What?
Amanda S.: Yeah. They’re trying to put it both ways, like, oh, well then … But yeah. You know what? If someone wants to be upset and be hurt about something, they’re allowed to be. They don’t always have to put a-
Vickie B.: I’m sorry, wait. I don’t even understand. What are they trying to say, because I get it. Hillary Clinton, everybody kept saying, oh, she wears pantsuits, she wears pantsuits. Yeah, no. I wear a suit and so does Hillary Clinton. And that also makes me mad, when people are like, gay marriage. I’m like, marriage.
Amanda S.: No, marriage. Yeah.
Vickie B.: Like, what are you talking about? If we were going to get into semantics and rhetoric and words, oh, we’re not allowed to say girl pants? This person’s just completely taking it out of context.
Amanda S.: It’s the idea, if you’re a girl and you’re crying about something, it’s like, well put on your big girl pants and go take care of it. Which, that’s fine to say, because women can do everything that men can do. But we can also say-
Vickie B.: Right, to me it’s more so like, girls don’t wear pants. They’re in frilly dresses. So put on some pants and get it done.
Amanda S.: And that’s where that saying came from. Absolutely. And it’s like, I can be upset if I want to. And it doesn’t make me any less of a strong woman. Just like a man can be upset and it doesn’t make him any less masculine. Or he doesn’t have to be masculine. Just like a woman can be masculine. It’s the idea that we should be teaching our kids that they can be whatever they want. And I think we’ve talked about this before, about the idea of, when parents tell their kids, “You can grow up to be whatever you dream that you want to be.” But are our actions following those words? And to me, saying that this kind of poster shouldn’t be up on a high school, is doing the opposite. It’s not showing our kids that they can be whoever they want. It’s making these kids who feel like they have to stay in the closet, or making the little boy who wants to dance … Because dance is really hard. You see male ballet dancers?
Vickie B.: I’m sure they’ve gone through … Yeah.
Amanda S.: That’s why football go into dance classes-
Vickie B.: Or male cheerleaders.
Amanda S.: … ’cause it does a lot. Or a girl can’t play football. Why don’t we have more women in professional sports? Because we’re told as a culture that that’s a man’s job. So the whole point is, whether you believe this saying or not, whether you think that you agree with the sign, it shouldn’t matter, because we should be allowing the kids to see both perspectives. If this poster was something on the other side, as long as it doesn’t incite hate, I wouldn’t be saying it should be taken down just because I don’t agree with it. Because I think that social groups on school campuses, whether it’s high school or college, should have the right to express their views. And students should have the right to learn about them, and then decide for themselves. Not what their parents have believed, not … Especially these 18 year olds who are about to vote for the first time. Any high school senior who turned 18 already and is going to vote. Our election is June 5th, so that’s two weeks away.
Vickie B.: Yeah. And I think it’s taking a step back and realizing it’s not censorship, it’s curbing hate speech. Like I said, you cannot sit here and yell out “Fire” in a theater. We learned this in law school. And there’s plenty of other examples of what you can and cannot say, and that you could get in trouble for. And for people to say we have this new generation of snowflakes, and you can’t say anything, I get it. People … They say you’re politically incorrect all the time. But I think that if you come from a pure stance, a pure heart, and you’re trying to change the conversation or start the conversation, I don’t think anybody will take it the wrong way.
But when you have people that are using derogatory language, that are coming from a malice point or a super aggressive, toxic masculinity viewpoint, then I think you get people like Amanda and I, who are sitting here and saying, I’m trying to understand your side of it, but let me give you some food for thought, which I doubt this person would ever take that into consideration. Well, maybe it wasn’t a teacher, it was a student, but what would you like the school to do? Do you think that it’ll incite hateful speech? Or do you really think it’ll make that big of an impact? I don’t really think that.
Amanda S.: No. It has 238 comments on this post. And so far, as I’ve been scrolling through, I don’t see this guy who posted this, I don’t see him responding to anybody. So it’s almost just like, let me put this here and stir something up.
Vickie B.: Yeah, people do that all the time and you’re allowed to do that. It’s Facebook. But it doesn’t mean that they agree with what you’re saying. He put it on a place where he knew people would be on his side. And that’s fine. But we have a right to discuss our opinion, and we thought, wow, we have a podcast. Let’s do it on there.
So hopefully, it gave you guys some viewpoints of what we’re thinking about. It’s always something that, in our line of work, comes up. Sometimes our kiddos have opinions, especially when they’re in high school of their disabilities and how they’re treated. And here, we’re all about the inclusion and opportunity and changing our community so that we can just be better.
Amanda S.: Yeah. And so maybe next time you see that a school’s doing something like this and allowing their students to be active participants in their community, we should be applauding them rather than … What happens to the student that sees this post and goes, oh, maybe I shouldn’t make that poster. We don’t get people to be active, what’s the generation going to be like?
Vickie B.: I’m sure they would have allowed someone to say, “Men do not wear pink, men don’t” … I’m sure nobody would … People would say, oh, we don’t like this, blah blah blah. But I don’t think that the school would go up and be like, we need to take this down. But to me, social justice week? That just doesn’t fit into only real men do not wear pink. It just wouldn’t fit. So I don’t know that they have any rules, but that might be something that maybe we could look into. I was trying to look up, but it’s just a local high school, and they probably don’t have a super long policy of things that you can and cannot say. I’m sure it gets approved by the ASB, but in high school, it’s pretty much run by the students. The teachers-
Amanda S.: Yeah, I remember making posters for different things in high school, and we never had to get them approved.
Vickie B.: Yeah, I don’t know-
Amanda S.: We just put them up.
Vickie B.: I know, I know. I feel like someone was around. I don’t know, maybe not. But I guess that’ll do it for us today. Hopefully you guys enjoyed it. And keep those topics coming in.
Amanda S.: Oh yeah, yeah, definitely. We try to keep things timely, but of course, definitely looking for … And now that’s second week in a row of just us. I think maybe next week we’ll have a guest. Or maybe not, I don’t know. We have some guests lined up, because I’m out for almost a week. You guys have to cheer me on. Hopefully I survive. I actually just looked at the weather and it said it’s supposed to rain, so that’ll be fun.
Vickie B.: Yeah, that would be a lot of fun. But you’ve done it before, so too too bad. Well anyway, thanks for listening.
Amanda S.: Have a good Memorial Day weekend, hope you guys all enjoy, and we will talk to you soon.
Vickie B.: Bye bye.
Amanda S.: Bye.