Intellectual Freedom and Minors

NOTE: This past webinar has now been archived. The recording can be viewed on YouTube or below for free.

We all have First Amendment rights. It says so right there in the foundational document of our nation. But surely the Founders weren’t talking about children!

Most of the challenges to the materials and services in libraries are launched by parents, and usually to protect children (some as old as 17) from precisely the things that interest them most.  So what does that mean for the minors? What freedom do they have to read, view, and check out the materials they want? For the most part, librarians advocate for teens' rights, but there are still stories that we hear about labeling books, or limiting access based on grade, restricted shelves, and permission slips. What we’ve lovingly termed, “soft censorship”.

Our speakers will explore how those rights can be protected and respected, and take a closer look at the rights of parents, teachers, and library staff who are concerned about age-appropriate materials.

This valuable opportunity is being sponsored by the Freedom to Read Foundation.

This archived webinar was originally presented May 26, 2016
Running time: 71 minutes

Learning Outcomes

  • Inspiration and motivation from one of the most controversial and frequently challenged teen authors
  • Definition and discussion of soft censorship
  • Information about the Office for Intellectual Freedom and the numbers around the children's and teen's books being challenged
  • Familiarity with the interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights that are relevant to minors
  • Clear understanding of specific legal terms that are often misused:
    • In Loco Parentis
    • Harmful to Minors

Who Should Attend

  • Librarians; youth, public, K-12 school
  • Administration: directors, systems, superintendents, principals
  • Library Boards and School Boards
  • Organizations concerned with the First Amendment and Intellectual Freedom
  • State Library Associations and Intellectual Freedom Committee members


Picture of Theresa Chmara

Theresa Chmara is an attorney in Washington, DC. She also is the General Counsel of the Freedom to Read Foundation. She is the author of Privacy and Confidentiality Issues: A Guide for Libraries and their Lawyers (ALA 2009). She has been a First Amendment lawyer for over twenty-five years and is a frequent speaker on intellectual freedom issues in libraries.  She is a contributing author for the Intellectual Freedom Manual published by the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association and a frequent author for American Association of School Librarians' Knowledge Quest journal where she's published an article titled "Do Minors Have First Amendment Rights in Schools?

Chris Crutcher

Chris Crutcher’s years as teacher, then director, of a K-12 alternative school in Oakland, California through the nineteen-seventies, and his subsequent twenty-odd years as a therapist specializing in child abuse and neglect, inform his thirteen novels and two collections of short stories. “I have forever been intrigued by the extremes of the human condition,” he says, “the remarkable juxtaposition of the ghastly and the glorious. As Eric ‘Moby’ Calhoun tells us at the conclusion of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, ‘Ain’t it a trip where heroes come from’.” He has also written what he calls an ill-advised autobiography titled King of the Mild Frontier, which was designated by “Publisher’s Weekly” as “the YA book most adults would have read if they knew it existed.”

Chris has received a number of coveted awards, from his high school designation as “Most Likely to Plagiarize” to the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award. His favorites are his two Intellectual Freedom awards, one from the National Council for Teachers of English and the other from the National Coalition Against Censorship. Five of Crutcher’s books appeared on an American Library Association list of the 100 Best Books for Teens of the Twentieth Century (1999 to 2000). A recent NPR list of the Best 100 YA and Children’s books included none of those titles. 





How to Register

Tech Requirements

You'll need stable internet connection and working headphones/speakers.


For content questions, please contact Kristin Pekoll, Assistant Director, Office for Intellectual Freedom at or 312-280-4221.

Questions regarding registration should be directed to ALA’s Membership and Customer Service department at 1-800-545-2433 x5.

Subscribe to future issues of Intellectual Freedom News, a free biweekly compilation of news delivered to your email by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom including

  • current book challenges in libraries and schools
  • articles about privacy, internet filtering and censorship
  • ALA activities, conferences and institutes, products, online learning opportunities, awards and grants, international exchanges, and more
  • how to get involved and make the most of what ALA offers

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Office for Intellectual Freedom eLearning

Freedom to Read Foundation

Why be a member of the Freedom to Read Foundation?

Freedom to Read Foundation members:

  • Help defend the First Amendment in the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court;
  • Support librarians and teachers around the country besieged by attempts to restrict library materials and services;
  • Qualify for discounts for upcoming events;
  • Have access to member-only content on this site; and
  • Vote for and be eligible to run for trustee in the annual board elections.

Your membership in FTRF helps us accomplish these objectives: 

  • Have a stronger voice in the courts, within the library community, and in the public arena - more members and more resources mean greater visibility for the freedom to read; 
  • Implement our strategic plan that includes this new, interactive web site; more educational and legal initiatives; and better communication with our members; and
  • Increase our organizational capacity to ensure the continued vitality of the Freedom to Read Foundation for many years to come.

Most importantly, as we continue to monitor and actively participate in court cases at the state and federal levels, your membership helps ensure our ability to defend free speech. We are particularly concerned about continued threats to our privacy, and of overzealous internet filters in libraries, which are too often used to create barriers to access constitutionally protected information. In a free country, access to such information should not be constrained.

As a member of the Freedom to Read Foundation you do make a difference when the freedoms of access and expression are at risk.

To find out more on how to become a member, visit or call 1-800-545-2433 x4223

Personal membership levels

$10 Student | $35 Regular | $50 Contributing | $100 Sponsor | $500 Patron | $1,000 Benefactor

Organizational membership levels

$100 Organizational Member | $250 Organizational Sponsor | $500 Organizational Patron | $1,000 Organizational Benefactor