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Students, staff react to law that limits conversations about race in K-12 schools

Students, staff react to law that limits conversations about race in K-12 schools

Students, staff react to law that limits conversations about race in K-12 schools
October 21
14:30 2021

A law that intends to abolish critical race theory in Texas schools has been signed by Gov. Gregg Abbott, as university faculty say such curriculum is not actually taught at the K-12 level.

The law, House Bill 3979, limits teachers from freely discussing current events, as well as systematic racism, in public schools, specifically in social studies classes. Part of the bill also restricts teachers from assigning civic action projects to students.

“Teachers who choose to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs shall, to the best of their ability, strive to explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective,” according to the bill.

Opponents of the bill say the legislation will limit honest conversations about racism and xenophobia. On Oct. 8, Carroll Independent School District Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Gina Peddy was recorded telling teachers that if they have a book on the Holocaust in their classroom, they should also offer texts with an “opposing” perspective. Peddy cited HB 3979 in the audio as the reasoning for including alternative perspectives on the topic.

Carroll ISD Superindentent Lane Ledbetter has issued an apology regarding this statement on Oct. 14, saying that the district “[recognizes] there are not two sides of the Holocaust,” on the district’s social media platforms.

More laws restricting civics curriculum can be expected in the future, as Abbott released a statement saying the issue will be added to a special session agenda.

“I do see this law to be harmful for students and educators alike because this law is trying to shove history under the rug,” English freshman Natalia Michel-Hernandez said. “Something such as racism [is] a huge part of life today because we see it in the media almost every day. It just confuses me why we wouldn’t teach something as important.”

Critical race theory is an academic concept that race and racism are social constructs deeply embedded within the legal system. The founding legal scholar was Derrick Bell, said Amanda Vickery, an associate professor of social studies and anti-racist education at the university. Bell’s 1992 book “Faces at the Bottom of the Well” asserted that racism is a permanent aspect of American life.

Vickery said it is important to note that critical race theory is not actually taught in K-12 schools.

“What a bill like this does is ban teachers from talking about race,” Vickery said. “Really what these bills are targeting with critical race theory is the understanding that racism is a part of our life and is something structural.”

Vickery said that the bill has serious implications for K-12 schools even though the theory being targeted is not directly taught in such institutions.

“It limits conversation about race and racism, which we know are very important for kids to have,” Vickery said. “It’s not going to prepare students to live and exist in our society [where] racism exists.”

Vickery said such laws will not prepare young students to speak about their own experiences with race.

A future educator at the university told the North Texas Daily they opposed the new law. Asia Carrington, a history and secondary education senior, described the bill as “diabolical and detrimental to K-12 educators and their students.”

“I strongly disagree with [HB 3979] and really hope that it is reversed within the next governor cycle,” Carrington said. “It’s almost ironic that we are told over and over that we learn history so history doesn’t repeat itself, but the government and certain entities are actively working to ensure that we can’t learn about said history.”

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Priya Leal

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