Educational Gag Orders Issue Page Hero Image (1)

Educational Censorship

The Issue

PEN America is a national leader in fighting educational censorship in both higher ed and K-12. Our signature campaign against educational gag orders — legislative restrictions on the freedom to learn and teach that have swept the country since January 2021 — has generated media coverage in over a hundred publications. We will continue to expand our work to defend students and teachers against legislative infringements on free expression in the classroom.

Index of Educational Gag Orders

PEN America tracks these bills in our Index of Educational Gag Orders, updated weekly.

193: number of educational gag order bills introduced in state legislatures since January 2021

41: number of states where an educational gag order bill has been introduced

19: number of educational gag orders that have become law

15: number of states with an educational gag order law

7: number of states with higher ed gag orders in force

19: total number of states with an educational gag order in force via law, policy, or executive order

122 million: number of people living in states with educational gag orders in force



America's Censored Classrooms

America's Censored Classrooms

This year, proposed educational gag orders have increased 250 percent compared to 2021. Thirty-six different states have introduced 137 gag order bills in 2022, compared to 22 states introducing 54 bills in 2021. While there has been a decline in new gag order laws passed from 12 last year to 7 this year, overall, legislative attacks on education in America have been escalating—fast.
Read the report
Educational Gag Orders

Educational Gag Orders

Between January and September 2021, 24 legislatures across the United States introduced 54 separate bills intended to restrict teaching and training in K-12 schools, higher education, and state agencies and institutions. The majority of these bills target discussions of race, racism, gender, and American history.
Read the Report


American Council on Education and PEN America Release Resource Guide to Help Higher Education Leaders Defend Academic Freedom

February 24, 2023
Over the past several years, higher education leaders and free speech advocates have grown increasingly alarmed at the rise of what PEN America calls educational gag orders: legislative restrictions on discussions of race, gender, American history, and LGBTQ+ identities in K-12 classrooms and on college campuses. PEN America has tracked nearly 300 bills, introduced in […]

Florida University’s Investigation of Professor’s Teaching on Race is “Textbook Example” of Mishandling of Spurious Complaint, Says PEN America

February 23, 2023
“No university, even a private one, should violate the tenets of academic freedom, least of all to suit a political agenda,” said Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of Free Expression and Education at PEN America. ”But if Palm Beach Atlantic University is indeed considering not renewing a professor for the content of a course he has been teaching for 12 years, this cannot be separated from the broader political climate in Florida.

Educational Censorship Continues: The 2023 Legislative Sessions So Far

February 16, 2023
The early returns from the 2023 legislative sessions suggest that lawmakers’ fervor to censor and ban content from educational institutions has not abated. Far from it.
More on Educational Censorship >

Tip SheetIf you live in the United States, it’s likely that your state legislature or school district has either passed an educational gag order or is considering doing so.

Want to help combat this threat to free expression, but don’t know where to start? Here are a few steps you can take as a citizen to help change the conversation in your community.

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