Teens Successfully Fighting for their First Amendment Freedoms

By: Julie Stivers, Chair YALSA Presidential Taskforce

Banned Books Week is a powerful platform to highlight how libraries advocate for teens’ rights. As library staff working with and for teens, we can also find inspiration in the work that youth engage in themselves to protect and fight for their First Amendment freedoms.

Youth civic engagement is not new. Many of the cases detailed on ALA’s Notable First Amendment Court Cases page feature the civic efforts of teens. Two of the most famous—Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (ICSD) and Island Trees Board of Education v. Pico—resulted in rulings with language that can galvanize library staff and teens today.

  • In Tinker v. Des Moines ICSD, the Supreme Court stated that “students ‘do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate’ and that the First Amendment protects public school students’ rights to express political and social views.”
  • In Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico, the Supreme Court upheld the rights of students to challenge school boards’ removal of library titles. The ruling states that “local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.”

Read more on these cases and many others at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorship/courtcases.

Teens today are successfully fighting for their rights in varied and dynamic ways. A recent victory powered by teens occurred in Arizona where students and their parents had been fighting against the removal of Mexican-American Studies curriculum from their schools. In late August, Judge A. Wallace Tashima wrote that the First Amendment rights of Tucson students had been violated as they were denied the “right to receive information and ideas.” Furthermore, the court concluded that the students had proven their First Amendment claim “because both enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial animus.” [Washington Post, August 23, 2017]

This powerful triumph is a victory for culturally sustaining pedagogy, diverse and reflective resources, and First Amendment rights. Impressively, it is a victory not only beneficial for teens, but also powered by teens. They organized rallies, created community groups—including U.N.I.D.O.S., United Non-Discriminatory Individuals Demanding Our Studies, coordinated peaceful protests, and even gathered support from teens in other states. [The Daily Wildcat, June 28, 2017]

Our libraries—public, school, academic—can serve as crucial incubators for youth activism and social justice. In addition to sharing these stories with our teens—what else are we doing in our libraries today to support our teens’ activism and fight for justice?

This post is part of the YALSA Presidential Theme: Youth Activism through Community Engagement

YALSA Intellectual Freedom Liaison Report

As the YALSA Liaison to the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC), I’d like to  highlight several issues that were discussed by the IFC at ALA annual that are particularly pertinent to YALSA members.

First, hate crimes and materials challenges have increased this past year. The Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) staff is always ready to help librarians and libraries work through these issues, as desired by the local institution.  The Office is urging any library that experiences a hate crime or a challenge to report it to the Office. The more complete the reporting is the better the profession and ALA can work to combat these issues.  To report challenges use this link: http://www.ala.org/tools/challengesupport/report

Second, there are two new initiatives from OIF that YALSA members will want to know about.

Our Voices – Founded in 2016 by OIF and ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services, Our Voices continues to work to build a foundation of publishers, authors, and partnerships to bring diverse, quality content to library shelves. The goal of Our Voices is to provide librarians with “diverse content with one click.” It will connect libraries with electronic and in-print content from small, independent publisher and authors. The Our Voices Council will use BiblioLabs as the platform to submit, review, and gather metadata on diverse literature. The books will be distributed through Independent Publisher’s Group. Our Voices is now recruiting librarians to review small, independent publisher and author content.

Intellectual Freedom Boot Camp – First piloted in the fall of 2016, the Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Office for Library Advocacy continue to offer Intellectual Freedom and Advocacy Boot Camp at pre-conferences around the country in cooperation with library chapters. Four Advocacy Boot Camps took place in 2017, and five are slotted for the fall of 2017. Led by OIF Director James LaRue and OLA Director Marci Merola, the training sessions address the four new, key messages of ALA:

  1. Libraries transform lives.
  2. Libraries transform communities.
  3. Librarians are passionate advocates for lifelong learning.
  4. Libraries are a smart investment.

Attendees craft the beginning of an advocacy plan and are given practical tips on messaging, networking, community engagement, and Intellectual Freedom as the core value and brand of librarianship.

Finally, two new Interpretations to the Library Bill of Rights were passed by Council at the last session:  “Politics in American Libraries: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” and  “Equity, Diversity, Inclusion: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.”

To find out about all the issues IFC discussed, read IFC Chair Pam Klipsch’s report to ALA Council  Council. http://connect.ala.org/node/268218

Ma’lis Wendt

mwendt@nyc.rr.com

 

 

Protecting Teen Privacy

privacyAt ALA Midwinter, the YALSA Board was pleased to adopt the position paper “The Library’s Role in protecting Teens’ Privacy” written by Mary K. Chelton.

Libraries play an integral role in protecting the intellectual freedom and privacy rights of our communities and users. In early 2016, the FBI published Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools, a proposed set of guidelines for surveying internet use of students seen to be at-risk of recruitment by terrorist organizations. These guidelines cast American high schools at hotbeds for terrorist action, and recommend identifying teens for surveillance and intervention on factors so broad that almost every teen fits the description.

It is documents like this that remind us of the important role that libraries play in protecting the privacy of teens (both in and out of school). This highly connected population, is already subjected to privacy threats every day, and policies like the one proposed by the FBI are in direct opposition of the library’s mission.

In the newly adopted position paper, Chelton suggests several actions we can take to protect the privacy rights of teens:

  • Refresh your knowledge of key documents, like ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual and AASL ‘s Standards for the 21st Century Learner
  • Report challenges or violations of teens’ privacy to ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom
  • Embed educating teens and their parents and caregivers about their rights into library services and programming
  • Keep up to date on privacy and surveillance issues through resources such as ALA’s District Dispatch and the YALSAblog
  • Seek out training on topics including but not limited to: privacy, students’ rights, libraries’ role in intellectual freedom, and how to leverage technology tools that protect privacy
  • Participate in events such as the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Choose Privacy Week
  • Take advantage of technology that protects library patrons’ privacy
  • Make a commitment to reach out to and serve at-risk youth in the community and address their needs, whatever they may be
  • Identify and work with community partners who are also committed to protecting teens’ rights

The YALSA Board adopted the position paper at ALA Midwinter and has committed to reviewing YALSA guidelines and policies to assure teen information seeking and privacy needs are addressed.

See the full board agenda and documents online to get the details of what the board talked about. We will also be posting meeting minutes there in the next week or so. You can also read the upcoming blog posts from board members about some of the actions taken at Midwinter.

Kate McNair

YALSA Board Member 2015-2018

Rethinking YALSA: Virtual Town Hall on Monday!

Don’t forget to login on Monday, June 13, 2016, from 2 – 3 pm Eastern for a Town Hall Discussion!

The Town Hall will be about the Organizational Plan that the Board just approved.  See President Candice Mack’s recent blog post for more information.

The Town Hall will be led by Candice and me, and we’ll be joined by many board members, too. The agenda is as follows:

2:00 – 2:15 pm:  Overview of the Organizational Plan & Steps Already Taken

2:15 – 2:45 pm:  Discussion with Participants about Involvement & Engagement Activities

Question to Ponder: What YALSA member engagement activities have you found most meaningful?

2:45 – 3 pm: Q&A and Wrap-Up

If you can’t make it to the virtual town hall, but you’re attending ALA Annual in Orlando, we’d love to see you at the session What’s New in YALSA and How You Can Be a Part of It! The session will be on Saturday, June 25th, from 8:30-10 am at the Rosen Centre, Room Salon 03/04. It will be similar to the virtual town hall, and YALSA’s strategic guru Eric Meade will join the discussion. You can find out more about the Whole Mind Strategy Group in this interview with YALSA Board member Kate McNair.

We’ll be using a format that the Board has been using to meet virtually– Zoom. You don’t have to use video, but it does make conversation easier. And we always love when cute animals accidentally walk in front of the screen!

Email the YALSA Office soon to receive the login information: yalsa@ala.org

Chris Crutcher Inspired Me to be An Intellectual Freedom Activist for Teens

I had only been a school librarian for a few years when a school in a neighboring county had a high profile materials challenge involving Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk. Area libraries and Crutcher responded by planning some related events coinciding with the 2005 Banned Books Week, and his stops included our local public library. When one of my teachers saw the promotional poster I’d created for Crutcher’s speech, she echoed my belief that limiting access to anything sets a dangerous precedent. We were both eager to capitalize on the opportunity for her students to hear the renowned author and re-imagined her twelfth grade research paper as case studies in censorship.

Chris Crutcher (2005)

The project was successful beyond our wildest expectations in engaging students intellectually and promoting conversation about fundamental rights. Though the event with Crutcher was remote from campus and held in the evening, the majority of the class attended the lecture. He was gracious enough to pose with our students afterwards (above). Crutcher’s talk that night made me understand the needs of young people to see their experiences reflected in literature. As he spoke about his background as a family therapist and the many ways in which his books reflect the lived experience of young people and offer support for those who needed it, it galvanized my belief in intellectual freedom as a fundamental aspect of youth services.
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Sign this Petition to Protect Libraries & Patron Rights

Last week, the Michigan House and Senate passed legislation that is onerous to libraries and sent it to Governor Snyder to sign.  The library community is calling on the governor to do the right thing for libraries, schools, and parks by Vetoing SB 571.  If SB 571 becomes law, library staff could be sent to jail for sharing factual information about elections with their communities. Library boards could be fined thousands of dollars of sending out a newsletter if it shares information about what is on your local ballot. If this bill is signed into law, it will affect every Michigan library campaign 2016 (in 2014 there were at least 51 Michigan libraries on the ballot). This law, if it is not vetoed, would place a gag order on the library staff and boards’ ability to tell the truth about what the plans are to put tax money to work, and what the impact would be on community outcomes if it doesn’t pass.   Continue reading

Instagram of the Week – September 28

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

Banned Books Week kicked off yesterday, Sunday, September 27 and Instagram users are posting photos in celebration of their fREADom to read. Running from September 27 through Saturday, October 3, this year’s Banned Books Week focuses on young adult books. It may be easy to call to mind cases of challenged books and censorship that made their way to media outlets, but both the YALSA wiki and the American Library Association’s Challenges to Library Materials page remind us that a challenge can also include a patron expressing concern over an item or requesting that it be shelved in another collection. YALSA’s The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report lists intellectual freedom as one of the core values librarians should hold as they protect the rights of teens to access information and educate the community about intellectual freedom.

Are you doing something to celebrate Banned Books Week? Book lists, displays, games, posters? We want to know! Share with us in the comments section below.

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Fall Appointments Update

Happy Fall!

I just wanted to thank our members for the 537 volunteer committee applications that were submitted and to give everyone an update on the award and selection committee appointments process!

The appointments task force was finalized in October and award and selection committee chairs were selected. The appointments task force and I are still working on filling all of the award and selection committee member vacancies, but rosters should be finalized soon.

Appointing the local arrangements committee for Midwinter 2015 is the next priority.

ALA Appointments: There has been one ALA Appointment call to review the general ALA appointment process. The slate for the nominating committee has not been officially presented, but does include one YALSA member.

ALA President Elect Sari Feldman has put out a call for volunteers for the ALA committees listed below. Please let me know if you are interested in being recommended for any of them. The ALA application form closes this Friday, November 7, 2014.

It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to go through all of your applications. Thank you so much for your dedication to YALSA and to teen library services!

 

Back to School: CIPA Policy Brief

This summer, ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy and Office for Intellectual Freedom released a policy brief marking a decade of school and public libraries limiting patrons’ access to online information due to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

Titled Fencing Out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act 10 Years Later, the report advocates an action plan to reduce the nationwide, negative impacts of CIPA. I found it well worth a read, and you will too if you wish to understand the progressive possibilities surrounding CIPA at your library and at libraries across America.

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Back to School: Challenging the Freedom to Teach and Learn about Labor

What if the collection in your library was circumscribed by your state legislature? This spring, the Michigan state legislature introduced a bill specifically designed to penalize instruction surrounding an important but politically disfavored topic, that of labor organization.

The legislation reads:

Prohibited Instruction Activity. The Senate added new language stating that it is the intent of the Legislature that a public university that receives funds under section 236 shall not participate in any instructional activity that encourages or discourages union organizing of employees including, but not limited to participating with any business or union, or group of businesses or unions, in hosting, sponsoring, administering, or in any way facilitating an academy, seminar, class, course, conference, or program that provides instruction, in whole or in part, in techniques for encouraging or discouraging employees in regard to union organizing. The appropriation in section 236 for any university that participates in an activity described in this section shall be reduced by $500,000 for each occurrence. (Sec. 271A)

Specifically, the bill challenges Michigan State University’s incorporation of a Building Trade Academy as part of their existing School of Human Resources and Labor Relations. The issue seems to have come to a head surrounding coursework that has been described as promoting labor organization.

Promoting labor relations – that seems like a broad umbrella. There is real potential for this movement to stifle any academic debate related to labor history and workers’ rights. Continue reading