Teens Need Intellectual Freedom, Too

Earlier this month, someone from the Pelham, NY, public library tattled to the high school principal after an eleventh grader was at the library researching gun conceal & carry laws.  The student was called into the assistant principal’s office and interviewed by the police.  After talking to the student, police Detective Kevin Campion assured everyone that there was nothing to be worried about and that the student had not broken any laws.

Many public libraries make a commitment to their communities–including teens!–that they will protect everyone’s privacy.  You may have heard of a little thing we like to call Intellectual Freedom.  The U.S. Constitution guarantees us the right to access any and all information without fear of persecution (excepting obscenity, libel and fighting words), and librarians have really taken that to heart.

But there are two sides to the story, as always.  The informant probably thought he or she had a duty to protect the Pelham community.  Can you imagine NOT telling the police, and then seeing a school shooting happen?  That would be so awful…  The media often chastises schools and law enforcement in the wake of violent crimes:  “They ignored the warning signs!”  So where should librarians draw the line?

In looking into this issue, I found some great resources for teens that deal with various aspects of Intellectual Freedom.  What I really love about these sites is that they’re made FOR teens, instead of just being ABOUT them:

  • As If:  Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom (AS IF) are young adult authors who “champion those who stand against censorship, especially of books for and about teens.”
  • Peacefire:  I love this website.  Peacefire reminds us that  teens have constitutional rights, too — which is sadly forgotten all too often.  Peacefire especially took a stand against internet filterning during the whole COPA / CIPA debacle.
  • Teen Privacy Rights:  Deanne Durrett has written a really good book about teens’ privacy rights, and she also has a website with tons of good info on the subject.
  • The Free Child Project:  Well, not just for children. . . for teens, too!  This website is your go-to for all things free speech, censorship, privacy, civil liberties, &c.
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