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NEPC Talks Education: Discussing the Implications of Discriminatory Censorship Laws in K-12 Education

BOULDER, CO (March 21, 2024) – In this month's episode of NEPC Talks Education, Christopher Saldaña interviews Boston University School of Law associate professor Jonathan Feingold, and Joshua Weishart, the Thomas R. Goodwin Professor of Law in the West Virginia University College of Law. Feingold and Weishart are the co-authors of the National Education Policy Center’s policy brief, How Discriminatory Censorship Laws Imperil Public Education.

In this month’s podcast, they discuss the recent surge of discriminatory censorship laws that deny students access to classroom conversations about racism, gender identity and other targeted topics. Feingold explains that these laws not only curb free speech and intellectual freedom but also violate students’ rights to learn and access the truth, ultimately undermining a pillar of American democracy. Weishart points out that the emergence of discriminatory censorship laws has raised certain novel legal questions. He explains that while some live legal cases challenge the constitutionality of these laws, the law is unsettled regarding the full scope of first amendment rights enjoyed by students and teachers.

Weishart describes how discriminatory censorship laws have been justified under the guise of parental rights. However, he notes that while courts have ruled that parents can control aspects of their own children's education, parents do not enjoy the right to dictate the education other children receive. Feingold adds that rhetoric of parental rights creates a veneer of neutrality even as discriminatory censorship laws serve the ideological interests of a small minority of parents hostile to inclusive pedagogical practices.

Both Feingold and Weishart stress the importance of mobilizing local, state, and national groups and stakeholders to oppose discriminatory censorship laws. State policymakers can play a crucial role by enacting laws to protect teachers and students from local attacks, while the federal government can step in to safeguard districts from state-level policies that encroach upon their constitutional and civil rights. Feingold emphasizes the need for coalitions between national and state civil rights groups, particularly in states where policymakers are pushing discriminatory censorship laws. Both professors underscore the urgency of this opposition, as discriminatory censorship laws have already begun to compromise K-12 public education and disproportionately impact America's most marginalized communities.

A new NEPC Talks Education podcast episode, hosted by Christopher Saldaña, will be released each month from September through May. 

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All episodes are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

NEPC podcast episodes are also available on Apple Podcasts under the title NEPC Talks Education. Subscribe and follow!


The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, sponsors research, produces policy briefs, and publishes expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Our mission is to provide high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence and support a multiracial society that is inclusive, kind, and just. Visit us at: