Schools and Minors’ Rights

Schools and Minors Rights

Our founders recognized that public schools are a vital institution of American democracy. But education, they also knew, involved more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Education in a democratic society requires developing citizens who can adapt to changing times, make decisions about social issues, and effectively judge the performance of public officials. In fulfilling their responsibilities, public schools must not only provide knowledge of many subject areas and essential skills, but must also educate students on core American values such as fairness, equality, justice, respect for others, and the right to dissent.


ALA Statements and Policies on Schools and Minors’ Rights

Access to Library Resources and Services for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (2019)
Library policies and procedures that effectively deny minors equal and equitable access to all library resources available to other users violate the Library Bill of Rights. The American Library Association opposes all attempts to restrict access to library services, materials, and facilities based on the age of library users.

Access to Resources and Services in the School Library: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (2014)
The school library plays a unique role in promoting intellectual freedom. It serves as a point of voluntary access to information and ideas and as a learning laboratory for students as they acquire critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed in a pluralistic society. Although the educational level and program of the school necessarily shapes the resources and services of a school library, the principles of the Library Bill of Rights apply equally to all libraries, including school libraries.

Minors and Online Activity: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (2019)
The digital environment offers opportunities both for accessing information created by others and for creating and sharing new information. The rights of minors to retrieve, interact with, and create information posted on the Internet in schools and libraries are extensions of their First Amendment rights.



Defending Frequently Challenged Young Adult Books: A Handbook for Librarians and Educators (2016)
By Pat R. Scales

Do Minors Have First Amendment Rights in Schools (2015)
By Theresa Chmara published in Knowledge Quest (American Association of School Libraries)

Intellectual Freedom for Teens: A Practical Guide for Young Adult and School Librarians (2014)
By Kristin Fletcher-Spear and Kelly Tyler

Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library (2013)
By Helen R. Adams

The First Amendment in Schools: A Resource Guide (2013)
By National Coalition Against Censorship

Protecting Intellectual Freedom in Your School Library: Scenarios from the Front Lines (2009)
By Pat R. Scales and ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom

Students’ Right to Read (2009)
By National Council of Teachers of English

Censorship and Selection: Issues and Answers for Schools (2001)
By Henry Reichman



Student Rights, Protests and Free Speech (2016)
Featured Speaker: Emilio De Torre with the ACLU

Intellectual Freedom and Minors (2016)
Featured Speakers: Theresa Chmara and Chris Crutcher


Assistance and Consultation

The staff of the Office for Intellectual Freedom is available to answer questions or provide assistance to librarians, trustees, educators and the public about the schools and minors’ rights. Areas of assistance include policy development, leveling, and professional ethics. Inquiries can be directed via email to or via phone at (312) 280-4226.


Updated July 2019