Educational Gag Orders in Texas and the Nation

Educational gag orders – legislative restrictions on the freedom to learn, and teach – have been passed by state legislatures around the country with alarming speed, including two passed in Texas in 2021. This presentation will survey the landscape of gag orders and other legislative threats to K-12 and higher education, explore the potential consequences of these threats to educational institutions, and use the national context to shed light on some of the specific threats to public education and to higher ed academic freedom that are present in Austin and in Texas more broadly.



headshot of Jeremy YoungJeremy C. Young is Senior Manager of Free Expression and Education at PEN America, where he leads the organization’s advocacy work against educational gag orders and for academic freedom in higher education. A former history professor, he holds a PhD in U.S. history from Indiana University and is the author of The Age of Charisma: Leaders, Followers, and Emotions in American Society, 1870-1940 (Cambridge University Press, 2017).


Dr. Andrea Gore is a Professor and Vacek Chair in Pharmacology and Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is an NIH-funded neuroscientist conducting work on effects of environmental chemicals on brain development. Dr. Gore was the 2021-2022 Chair of UT’s Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CCAFR), which advises on issues related to academic freedom in teaching, scholarship, and expression.

Julia Brookins is the Special Projects Coordinator at the American Historical Association. She directed the nationwide AHA Tuning project, serves on the editorial board of Perspectives on History, and is part of the team that develops initiatives to advance history in education and public life. She received her undergraduate degree in history from Harvard University and a PhD in US history from the University of Chicago, with a focus on immigration and citizenship in the Southwest.

Angela Valenzuela is a professor in both the Educational Policy and Planning Program within the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Texas at Austin and holds a courtesy appointment in the Cultural Studies in Education Program within the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. She also serves as the director of the University of Texas Center for Education Policy. She is the author of award-winning Subtractive Schooling: U.S. Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring (1999) Leaving Children Behind: How “Texas-style” Accountability Fails Latino Youth (2005), and Growing Critically Conscious Teachers: A Social Justice Curriculum for Educators of Latino/a Youth (Teachers College Press, 2016). Valenzuela also directs the National Latino Education Research and Policy Project (NLERAP) that aims to create teacher education pathways for Latino/a youth nationally.

Eric Tang, Ph.D is an Associate Professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and director of the Center for Asian American Studies. He also directs the undergraduate major, Race, Indigeneity, and Migration. His first book, titled Unsettled: Cambodian Refugees in the NYC Hyperghetto (Temple University Press, 2015), is an ethnographic account of refugee life in some of New York City’s most impoverished and socially marginalized neighborhoods.


PEN America is grateful to Lumina Foundation for their sponsorship of this event, and to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Henry R. Luce Foundation for their financial support of this event.