Episode #7: Cameron Samuels from Katy, TX

Episode #7: Cameron Samuels from Katy, TX


About this episode

(0:09) Introduction to Cameron Samuels and his advocacy efforts

Cameron is an LGBTQ student activist. In this episode of the podcast, our guest talks about their advocacy efforts, why they became an activist and how adults and educators can support LGBTQ youth.

(1:12) Cameron spoke out against an internet filter that blocked LGBTQ content

Cameron is currently a college freshman, but their advocacy efforts started when they were a high school student in Katy, Texas. They rose to national prominence when they began advocating with other students in Nov. 2021 against the LGBTQ internet filter that their school district used that blocked LGBTQ websites like the Trevor Project. They also set up a book distribution program to give out hundreds of banned books to students.

(1:59) “School should support my wellbeing and success”

Cameron felt unsupported by their school district when they put a content filter in place that blocked LGBTQ resources and news sites, and removed books from the libraries that affirmed queer identity. Cameron decided to speak up.

(8:11) “The internet filter was dismantled in August this year” (2022)

It required 10 months of hard work to get this done, showing up and speaking at school board meetings, accumulating thousands of signatures and going through legal channels to make this happen.

(9:55) Book banning is happening nationwide and students are fighting back

“Student voices are powerful. A voice is powerful and it is because of our voices being heard that we are seeing these changes. We have to show up, we have to get involved in advocacy and stand up for ourselves and we will see changes be made. It could take a year which just shows you can't give up. You have to be persistent.”

(13:26) Dismantling barriers that prevent students from accessing mental health resources

Content filters like the one at Cameron’s school block LGBTQ students from accessing vital mental health resources online like The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention service for LGBTQ youth. When a student cannot access suicide prevention lifelines and affirming resources that are vital to navigating their queer identities, LGBTQ youth are at risk of suicide ideation.

(18:17) How teachers can show support for LGBTQ students

Educators can make sure that content and resources in the library are a reflection of the learners that attend the school. The library is the heart of knowledge and learning, and it benefits students to see themselves there. They can request to purchase books like this for the following school year. Cameron recounts how one teacher wore a rainbow pin to quietly show solidarity with students. Knowing that students can go to their teachers and that someone at school cares about their well being is a huge support. School should be a safe space.

(23:28) How schools can be more inclusive in the library

One issue in Cameron’s school is that the district sends a notification to parents when a child checks out a young adult fiction novel. That can be a violation of privacy for queer students who want to check out these books that affirm their identity. That has been a significant barrier.

(27:17) What’s next for Cameron?

Cameron is now a freshman at Brandeis University and was the youth honorary chair of Banned Books Week in 2022, and is currently advocating for the Right to Read Act in Congress. They continue to stand up to censorship across the country.

(28:42) We empowered ourselves

Looking back Cameron says they and their classmates empowered themselves to speak out, but they had many supportive adults along the way. They say students are the victims in all of this.

(29:38) It’s adults’ responsibility to help students and youth

It’s important to attend school board meetings and advocate for students. It can’t just be students, especially when they are struggling and afraid.

(30:10) Businesses are often the ones that have the chance to make the change

It's a business level decision. They need to make choices that are right for our youth.

(32:20) Find a supportive community

Find friends who support you and find trusted adults. Go to school board meetings. Continue to build a movement. You have to speak up. Cameron achieved policy change by showing up and speaking up.