Faculty Book Talk: Catherine J. Ross, Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students’ First Amendment Rights, Tue. Feb. 16, at noon

Faculty Book Talk: Catherine J. Ross, Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students’ First Amendment Rights, Tue. Feb. 16, at noon

The Harvard Law School Library staff invite you to attend a book talk and panel discussion in celebration of Harvard Graduate School of Education Visiting Scholar Catherine J. Ross recently published book, Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students’ First Amendment Rights (Harvard Univ. Press).

Best book on the First Amendment of 2015”  — First Amendment News, Concurring Opinions

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 at noon
Harvard Law School Room WCC 2019 Milstein West A/B  (Directions)
1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge

Catherine Ross Book Talk Poster











Catherine J. Ross is Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School. She specializes in constitutional law (with particular emphasis on the First Amendment), family law, and legal and policy issues concerning children.  Professor Ross has been a co-author of Contemporary Family Law (Thomson/West) through the Fourth Edition published in 2015.

During 2015-2016, Professor Ross is a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard School of Education. She was a Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton from 2008-2009. Professor Ross has taught as a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Boston College (where she held joint appointments in the School of Education and the History Department) and St. John’s School of Law in New York.

An elected Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, Professor Ross is former chair of the ABA’s Steering Committee on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children, former chair of the Section on Law and Communitarianism of the Association of American Law Schools, and has served on a wide variety of ABA committees. She serves on the editorial board of the Family Courts Review, and is a former editorial board member of the Family Law Quarterly.

Prior to entering legal academia, Professor Ross was a litigator at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York, where she won major impact litigation on behalf of the city’s homeless population. Before attending Yale Law School, Professor Ross was on the faculty of the Yale Child Study Center, and the Bush Center on Child Development and Social Policy at Yale.


Michael Gregory



Michael Gregory, Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School



Paul Horwitz


Paul Horwitz, Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, Gordon Rosen Professor of Law at the University of Alabama School of Law



Mark Tushnet



Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard Law School


More about Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students’ First Amendment Rights:

“American public schools often censor controversial student speech that the Constitution protects. Lessons in Censorship brings clarity to a bewildering array of court rulings that define the speech rights of young citizens in the school setting. Catherine J. Ross examines disputes that have erupted in our schools and courts over the civil rights movement, war and peace, rights for LGBTs, abortion, immigration, evangelical proselytizing, and the Confederate flag. She argues that the failure of schools to respect civil liberties betrays their educational mission and threatens democracy.

From the 1940s through the Warren years, the Supreme Court celebrated free expression and emphasized the role of schools in cultivating liberty. But the Burger, Rehnquist, and Roberts courts retreated from that vision, curtailing certain categories of student speech in the name of order and authority. Drawing on hundreds of lower court decisions, Ross shows how some judges either misunderstand the law or decline to rein in censorship that is clearly unconstitutional, and she powerfully demonstrates the continuing vitality of the Supreme Court’s initial affirmation of students’ expressive rights. Placing these battles in their social and historical context, Ross introduces us to the young protesters, journalists, and artists at the center of these stories.

Lessons in Censorship highlights the troubling and growing tendency of schools to clamp down on off-campus speech such as texting and sexting and reveals how well-intentioned measures to counter verbal bullying and hate speech may impinge on free speech. Throughout, Ross proposes ways to protect free expression without disrupting education.” — Harvard Univ. Press

It is a revealing book about judicially sanctioned censorship… Well-argued and well-researched… Turn the pages of Lessons in Censorship and you will discover what it means for students to think freely and how courts have fashioned baseless arguments designed to squelch such thinking… Lessons in Censorship is a book that should be read and discussed by school officials at all levels of education. It is a work that should be pored over by school board officials and lawyers who represent school districts and college campuses. And its message should carry over into the memoranda and briefs that lawyers file to inform judges.—Ronald K. L. Collins, Concurring Opinions

Immensely informative… Ross also demonstrates that many school administrators have censored student speech, even in instances when they could not point to any tangible risk of disruption… As Ross illustrates, striking the right balance between order and free speech will not be easy. But action is urgently needed.—Glenn Altschuler, The Conversation

We teach our children to celebrate freedom of speech but what freedom do they have when their schools too often punish them for exercising it? Catherine Ross’s powerful and lucid exposé of the increasingly routine censorship of student speech is well worth our attention and concern.—Floyd Abrams, Cahill Gordon & Reindel, LLP

A magnificent book. Catherine Ross has given us a beautifully written and original contribution to our understanding of the nexus of constitutional law, lower courts, and everyday life in our public schools. She persuasively demonstrates that schools and judges too often teach ‘lessons in censorship’ that threaten the First Amendment and our vital culture of democracy.—Erwin Chemerinsky, University of California, Irvine School of Law