North Texas Daily

Gov. Abbott’s critical race theory bill hurts student discipline

Gov. Abbott’s critical race theory bill hurts student discipline

Gov. Abbott’s critical race theory bill hurts student discipline
May 16
10:00 2022

The passing of Gov. Greg Abbott’s bill advertised as an “anti-critical race theory bill” has had an immeasurably negative impact on how teachers can grapple with complex issues in an educational way. It’s been the center of much controversy over the past year, but the aspect that has gone most unspoken is the effects the bill has had on discipline.

In attempting to silence critical race theory in schools, conservative lawmakers have actually given more credence for students to commit discriminatory acts.

If a student makes a hateful comment to a classmate, the teacher can still take action and discipline the student. Without their ability to explain the underlying systemic problems that promote hate, however, there is no opportunity for a greater teaching moment. The student in question may be punished, but they won’t come away with anything else.

More frighteningly, Senate Bill 3 can go as far as prevent disciplinary action from ever even being given. If a student complains about how a classmate made an inappropriate joke about the glass ceiling or pay inequality, can a teacher address it? Doing so would be to admit that such inequity exists, violating the bill. These unsure areas are left for teacher discretion, and most will err on the side of caution as the fear of getting fired often outweighs the chance to teach a singular student.

The problem with the bill is not the way it was written, but the vast levels of discretion it leaves for interpretation and the overall disagreement on what critical race theory even is. The bill itself never even explicitly mentions critical race theory.

For some, it could be discussing institutionalized racism in the modern era. For others, it could be acknowledging slavery’s role in the foundation of the country. While the latter statement is actually explicitly banned in SB 3, the former is something teachers have to approach in a case-by-case scenario.

What happens when a student voices their concerns over inherent bias in the world beyond their school? Teachers must navigate a minefield of buzzwords, risqué terms and certain historical events that their more conservative counterparts would find “unnecessary.” These mental gymnastics are less than ideal when trying to teach, more so when students have personal issues that are rooted in those soft-banned subjects.

Even the resources teachers are allowed to use have become limited. Teachers are explicitly forbidden to “require an understanding of” The 1619 Project, a New York Times-sponsored project that addresses slavery’s role in the creation of the U.S. Other topics, most of which revolve around the institution of slavery, are covertly talked around rather than directly addressed.

Middle school is the start of adolescence for children. Gone is the sheltered world of elementary school, along with the loss of that safety net that introduces them to the world’s injustices: bullying, inequality and missed opportunities. But when a child should become disillusioned with how race or gender factors into those issues, their teachers are now legally bound to reroute their frustrations, even when there is a legitimate reason for concern.

The lack of honesty about existing inequality will undoubtedly have adverse effects on the youth. While education in prior years has been by no means comprehensive across the board, the lack of regulation on the subject did give teachers the opportunity to take their class to the next level by providing education that could address the more insidious forms of bigotry many still face today. With the first full school year after the passing of SB 3 drawing to a close, its effects on student discipline are as of now unmeasured but surely felt within every school in the country.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Ayden Runnels

Ayden Runnels

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