‘Anti-critical race theory’ bill heads to Senate after teachers assail it as ‘censorship’ | #teacher | #children | #kids


Texas teachers and students denounced a more strict “anti-critical race theory” bill as censorship and anti-civics education at a Senate committee hearing.

The bill will likely reach the full Senate for a vote soon after gaining committee approval Thursday afternoon.

The special session proposal builds off of a bill Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law last month that seeks to ban critical race theory from the classroom. Abbott insisted more could be done to “abolish” the theory from being taught to Texas public school students.

But educators insist critical race theory — an academic framework that probes the way policies and laws uphold systemic racism in areas like education or housing — is not part of curriculum. They worry the new law — and any efforts to make teaching more restrictive — will have a chilling effect on conversations about race and current events in the classroom. Representatives from major teacher groups complained that they were not consulted in the crafting of the proposal.

Gabriella Gonzalez, a student teacher in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, told lawmakers that she did not know how to teach about the diversity of Texas’ student population with the bill in place and that it didn’t offer sufficient directions to new teachers like herself.

“I deserve to know my place in Texas history and so does every fourth and seventh grader looking at [their curriculum] in the state,” Gonzalez said. “I should feel no fear when teaching the experience to Hispanic populations during social studies or any content area.”

A group of roughly 50 opponents — who included teachers, students and education advocates — crowded the balcony of the Texas Senate Thursday to oppose the legislation, even though it has little chance of passing anytime soon. House Democrats broke quorum earlier this week effectively halting their chamber from taking any action to advance the bill.

“Every student should learn about our country’s history, good and bad,” said Ana Ramón, the deputy director of advocacy with the Intercultural Development Research Association. “This [bill] is attacking our opportunity to help people and students understand systemic racism in our state.”

Neither the new law nor the proposal authored by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, mentions the theory explicitly.

A community member holds a "Erasing history is white supremacy" sign as someone holds a "Stop critical race theory" sign on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, during the Fort Worth ISD board meeting in Fort Worth. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)

Instead, the law Abbott signed last month prohibits schools from compelling social studies teachers to discuss a “particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs” and mandates teachers discussing such topics not give deference to any one perspective.

Hughes’ version goes a step further, extending the prohibition to teachers in all subject areas and eliminating a number of required teachings including the history of Native Americans, the chicano movement and women’s suffrage.

It also strikes a required curriculum on the history of white supremacy and the ways in which it is morally wrong. Each of the eliminated lessons were added into the law by House Democrats at the end of the last regular session.

The Mineola Republican explained Thursday that his legislation slashes many of the required teachings because it is the State Board of Education’s role to determine what is taught.

“We are not saying those things can’t be taught,” Hughes said. “This bill is about … broad concepts.”

Keven Ellis, chair of the State Board of Education, and SBOE member Pat Hardy testify before the State Affairs committee about social studies requirements in SB 3 in the Senate Chamber Thursday, July 15, 2021. The bill seeks to strip required lessons on women and people of color from "critical race theory" law. (Bob Daemmrich/Special Contributor)
Keven Ellis, chair of the State Board of Education, and SBOE member Pat Hardy testify before the State Affairs committee about social studies requirements in SB 3 in the Senate Chamber Thursday, July 15, 2021. The bill seeks to strip required lessons on women and people of color from “critical race theory” law. (Bob Daemmrich/Special Contributor) (Bob Daemmrich / Bob Daemmrich/Special Contributo)

State Board of Education Chairman Keven Ellis, R-Lufkin, noted at the committee meeting that much of the required teachings listed within the law signed by Abbott were already included in Texas’ required curriculum. Ellis oversees the board charged with interpreting the legislation into curriculum standards that all schools will have to follow.

“The strikethroughs are not being taken as a signal to the state board to limit those topics,” Ellis said.

Hughes’ bill also establishes a civics training program that would prepare educators to guide discussion of current events and teach media literacy, including instruction on verifying information and sources. The proposal also forbids schools from awarding course credit or making part of a course work for organizations that lobby for legislation at the federal, state or local levels.

Responding to concerns about enforcement, Hughes said he was open to exploring mechanisms and suggested that schools could use existing systems to track who is following the guidelines in the legislation and who is not.

Some proponents suggested penalties for breaking the tenets of the bill. The group of about a dozen commenters who voiced support for the legislation Thursday were mostly parents alleging their schools were teaching the academic theory.

One mother claimed that her son, who recently graduated from a high school near Houston, did not know how to write a sentence or what a semi-colon was because schools have been focusing on the wrong things, including critical race theory.

“You were hired to teach facts and skills [and] equip students for a successful life, not to hate their parents, the police or their country,” said Ruth York, a representative of the Tea Party Patriots, addressing teachers.

Texas is one of several states that have been drawn into the turbulent cultural debate over whether critical race theory is being taught in K-12 classrooms. The mere insinuation that the concept is present in curriculum has drawn dozens to school board meetings and legislative hearings. It even became a focal point of several trustee races in Texas.

The definition of the theory is often in contention. Sen. Bob Hall, R-Rockwall, described the theory as “teaching our kids to hate” and “activist training” while a critic of the bill said it was not teaching kids that white people are bad, but that white supremacy is bad.

Hughes’ bill passed out of committee with only Republicans voting to forward it to the Senate floor. The bill’s author said it would likely come up for consideration by the full chamber “fairly quickly” with some potential amendments, including one that would clarify that eliminating required teachings won’t prevent instructors from teaching the full curriculum.

The DMN Education Lab deepens the coverage and conversation about urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.



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