For immediate release | December 1, 2015

ALA Midwinter: Author Catherine J. Ross to discuss how our schools teach lessons in censorship

CHICAGO — Nearly half a century ago Justice Abe Fortas famously declared that students do not shed their constitutional right to freedom of speech at the schoolhouse gate. Yet public schools in the United States frequently censor student speech, especially controversial speech, often with the approval of the courts. School librarians confront this reality daily as they advocate and defend students' freedom of speech and their right to receive information.

"Lessons in Censorship," a talk given by law professor and author Catherine J. Ross, will try to bring clarity to the bewildering array of court rulings that define the speech rights of young citizens in the school setting. During her talk, Ross will examine the dispute that have erupted in our schools and courts over students' free speech rights and outline how the failure of schools to respect civil liberties betrays their educational mission and threatens democracy. Ross will also discuss how to protect free expression without disrupting education.

The program, part of the ALA Midwinter Meeting's "News You Can Use" series, is sponsored by the Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation. It will take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 9 in Room 253B of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Following her talk, Ross will sign copies of her new book, "Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students' First Amendment Rights," published by the Harvard University Press.

Catherine J. Ross is a law professor at George Washington University and, during the 2015-2016 academic year, a visiting scholar at the Harvard School of Education. She has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Yale and other universities. She is a co-author of Contemporary Family Law, a leading law school text (Foundation Press/West, 4th ed. 2015). For many years she led the American Bar Association’s efforts to address the legal needs of children.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom is charged with implementing ALA policies concerning the concept of intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights, the Association’s basic policy on free access to libraries and library materials. The goal of the office is to educate librarians and the general public about the nature and importance of intellectual freedom in libraries. OIF supports the work of the Intellectual Freedom Committee and its Privacy Subcommittee. For more information, visit


Deborah Caldwell-Stone

Deputy Director

American Library Association

Office for Intellectual Freedom

(312) 280-4224