Fighting censorship in Katy: Cameron Samuels ’26

After discovering an internet ban on important community resources like The Trevor Project, Samuels started a movement against censorship in Katy, Texas.

Cameron Samuels stands in front of a yellow post

By Kennedy Ryan
Photography by Dan Holmes
January 23, 2023

Cameron talking to another student.

Cameron Samuels ’26 speaks with a student in the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC).

For young people who are discovering their identity, resources like The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention program for people in the LGBTQIA+ community, provide a safe space of acceptance and community, and can even save a life.

When Cameron Samuels ’26 tried to visit the project’s website from a computer in their public high school in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, it wouldn’t work.

It was one of numerous sites Samuels found to be blocked on the high school servers because they promoted “alternative sexual lifestyles.”

Samuels was hesitant to create conflict with the school district, but knew these sites were important resources. They felt obligated to challenge the ban.

“It had never been comforting for me to walk through the hallways as someone who is openly queer, but I knew I had a supportive family to come home to at the end of the day. Others don’t have that privilege,” they said. “Without these resources, some students have nowhere to go. It not only creates an atmosphere of bigotry and isolation, but denies students access to something that could save their life.”

After building up the courage, Samuels attended a school board meeting to stand up to censorship. They were met with backlash from the community and rejection from the school district.

“I was the only student in the room. There was no applause. I felt isolated and lonely, but knew I had to keep fighting for this because I had peers who were directly affected by these policies,” Samuels said.

Samuels took to social media, circulating a petition with the help of friends and family. With over 90,000 students in the Katy school district, Samuels saw an opportunity to create a movement. After gaining positive traction from the community and over 2,000 petition signatures, Samuels returned to the school board and filled the room with supporters. With time and continued conversations, the ban was lifted at the high school level, but some resources remain blocked at the elementary and middle school level.

Websites weren’t the only thing banned throughout the Katy school district. After discovering numerous books were being banned for topics of race and sexuality, Samuels worked alongside peers to distribute hundreds of these books throughout the school system.

Cameron and other students work on their laptops
Samuels ’26 is now advocating for change in Texas from a new setting: the Brandeis campus.

Samuels’ efforts have received national attention, ranging from being featured on NBC News to being selected as one of Teen Vogue’s ‘21 under 21’ for 2022. The biggest recognition has come from students and parents in the school district who are now joining the movement.

“Some people just need a spark to take action into their own hands. It’s empowering to see parents continuing to push to lift these bans for their own children.”

While Samuels continues their efforts in Texas virtually, they have already found their sense of community and inclusion at Brandeis through organizations like Hillel. Samuels also looks forward to finding causes to support on campus like establishing a book sanctuary, a safe place for censored books, at Brandeis.

“Brandeis was right for me because it is rooted in social justice and inclusion,” they said. “As Brandeisians, we aren’t changing the story or pushing the boundaries to make it seem like we are someone we are not. We’re developing the skills to be the best of ourselves and the best we can provide to the world.”