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NEA News

Freedom to Learn Day of Action

A national call to action on May 3 drew educators and allies from across the country to demand that educators be given the freedom to teach their students an honest and accurate history. More actions to come!
Freedom to Learn
Published: May 17, 2023

Key Takeaways

  1. The Freedom to Learn National Day of Action mobilized efforts nationwide to defend and protect an honest and accurate education.
  2. Get ready for the next day of action with the Zinn Education Project: Teach Truth on June 10, when educators will pledge to teach truthfully about U.S. history and defend LGBTQ+ rights.
  3. Sign up for an event near you—or start your own!

On May 3, NEA members, parents, and allies stood together across the country to defend and protect truth in education during the Freedom to Learn National Day of Action, an initiative of the National Women’s Studies Association, in partnership with the African American Policy Forum and several other organizations.

Instead of cultivating belonging, critical thinking, and funding public schools, some politicians across the country are banning books, censoring curricula, and passing state laws that limit classroom lessons on race and gender. The effects are damaging. Teachers, principals, administrators have lost their jobs; lives have been threatened, and students’ freedom to learn, be themselves, and pursue their dreams have been compromised.

“We cannot, and we will not, allow politicians to grasp and hold on to power by fueling fear and division, and limiting our students' access and opportunity to an honest and accurate and complete education,” said NEA President Becky Pringle, in April, during an NEA webinar on the "power of truth," adding that attacks on educators and their unions are driving teachers and education support staff out of the profession.

“It is our shared responsibility to ensure that every student, every educator, and every school is excelling,” she says.

Large support exists for the freedom to learn

Politicians in at least 44 states have introduced legislation or pursued other measures that would require educators to overlook or deny the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, and other forms of oppression throughout U.S. history. These laws and restrictions have been imposed in at least 18 states, according to research from the Zinn Education Project.

In Oklahoma, for example, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a law restricting topics that could make a student “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex,” among seven other banned concepts.

Headshot of Kristi Williams, founder of Black History Saturdays in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Kristi Williams is the founder of Black History Saturdays, a community education program that teaches a more honest and comprehensive understanding of Black history in Oklahoma and worldwide.

“[The law] is so vague,” said Kristi Williams, founder of Black History Saturdays, in Tulsa, Okla., in early May. “Educators are afraid to teach any aspect of Black history because they don't know what's going get them in trouble.”

In response to these laws, educators, students, and community allies took part in collective actions in more than two dozen states across the country to show their support for the freedom to learn and demonstrate that the public supports equity in schools, campuses, and the workplace.

Actions included reading banned books, book-ban giveaways, teach-ins, social media blitzes, rallies, and more.

It’s time to act—again!

Three years ago, NEA and the Zinn Education Project launched the first national day of action to teach the truth, and another one is on the horizon: Teach Truth Day on June 10, when educators pledge to teach truthfully about U.S. history, defend LGBTQ+ rights, and speak out against anti-history education bills, banned books, and more.

The day of action is sponsored by the Zinn Education Project and coordinated with Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change.

NEA leaders firmly and unequivocally support these actions and urge the union's 3-million members to organize, participate, and engage to help raise awareness about the danger of these attacks on public education.

In Georgia, for example, people will meet at Stone Mountain Park for a truth-telling walk to discuss the area’s connection to White supremacy and listen to a read-aloud of the book “That Flag" by Tameka Fryer Brown and Nikkolas Smith. In Kansas, people will gather at Quindaro, a neighborhood located north of Kansas City that was once a stop along the Underground Railroad. This event is co-sponsored by various groups, including the National Education Association-Kansas City.

To participate, visit NEA's Freedom to Learn and Teach Truth Day of Action event page to help plan actions in your city.

Large swaths of the U.S. already have plans in place, which you can find here:

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If you're interested in organizing your own day of action, here are some steps to get started:

  1. Organize a gathering in person (or online) with fellow educators, family members, students, and community members. The group can be any size. If you don’t have time to organize a group, pick a site and go on your own or with a friend. Every voice and action counts!
  2. Invite teachers to share their commitment to teaching truthfully, parents to share why they want their children to have an uncensored

    education, and students to share why learning the truth about history and respecting all identities is important to them. You can plan other activities. See ideas in the slides and detailed description further below.

  3. Post photos and videos to social media with the hashtag #TeachTruth

Learn more about NEA's efforts to engage and mobilize educators, allies, and activists in the fight for racial, social and economic justice in public education at

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The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.