The law that prompted a school administrator to demand an ‘opposing’ perspective on the Holocaust is confusing all of Texas
register here for The 74’s daily newsletter. Donate here to support The 74’s independent journalism.
A New Texas law designed to limit how race-related subjects are taught in public schools comes with so little guidance, enforcement on the ground is already tying educators in semantic knots as they try to follow the intent of the legislature.
In the starkest case to date, a North Texas administrator briefed teachers last week during a training session on House Bill 3979 that they should provide materials that presented an “opposing” perspective of the Holocaust. A recording of the October 8 training at the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, obtained by NBC Newsreignited the debate over the so-called “Critical Race Theory Act”.
“Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979,” Gina Peddy, executive director of curriculum and instruction at Carroll ISD, is heard telling teachers on this recording. “And make sure that if you have a book about the Holocaust, that you have one that has opposition – that has other perspectives.”
This isn’t the first time the Carroll School District in Southlake – the affluent suburb between Fort Worth and Dallas – has made the news with its interpretation of the new law, which tries to keep critical race theory, or CRT, an academic discipline usually taught at the university level, outside of schools. The central idea of critical race theory is that racism is not limited to individuals. Instead, the theory argues that bias is something embedded in policies and legal systems.
Invest in independent journalism. And help The 74 make an impact.
Two weeks ago, the Carroll School Board voted 3-2 to reprimand a fourth grade teacher who had an anti-racism book in her class after a parent complained about it last year. And Southlake’s earlier struggles with a school diversity and inclusion plan — as well as how parents opposed to the plan started a political movement there — have come under fire. seven-part NBC podcast released earlier this year.
Texas law says a teacher cannot “require or make part of a course” a range of race-related concepts, including ideas that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race. or another sex”, or that someone is “inherently racist”. , sexist or oppressive” based on their race or gender.
Since the Governor of Texas. Greg Abbott signed the Anti-Criticism Race Theory Bill on June 15, reports of schools struggling to comply have surfaced, including in Southlake.
Since then, a Carroll teacher has covered a classroom library with yellow “DO NOT ENTER” tape. Last week, NBC reported that teachers there received grading tools called rubrics. These scoring sheets, also obtained by The Texas Tribune, ask teachers to run through a complicated chart to rate library offerings to ensure they comply with new state law.
The cards ask teachers to determine if an author from each book provided multiple perspectives. If an author “provides balanced information by offering multiple perspectives”, the book is awarded a maximum of two points. A book can get zero points if “the author’s point of view/bias distorts the content, making the material unsuitable for use with students”.
In an email to teachers, also obtained by the Tribune, Carroll ISD administrators told teachers that classroom libraries could not be used until they were verified, using rubrics.
“We want your staff to know that classroom libraries will continue to be available to students, but we will continue to check materials in these libraries for the remainder of the semester,” read an email sent to teachers.
After news surfaced this week about Southlake’s Holocaust advice to teachers, Sen said. Jose MenendezD-San Antonio, wrote a letter Thursday to Mike Morath, the commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, asking for a review of how school districts enforce the law to “refute hateful and racist rhetoric in our Texas public schools” .
“When this bill was passed, lawmakers warned that racist attacks would occur. It is our duty to take all possible measures to ensure an open and diverse forum, without subjecting our children to racism and hateful rhetoric,” Menéndez wrote.
State Senator Kelly HancockR-North Richland Hills, tweeted Thursday simply that “Southlake was just wrong.”
He added, “School administrators should know the difference between factual historical events and fiction. … No legislation suggests the action that this administrator promotes.
Paul Tapp, attorney for the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said his organization received questions from teachers because they didn’t know what they could teach. A biology professor asked if they should give equal time to creationism and evolution.
“Those are two good examples of the dangers of this type of law,” Tapp said. “The purpose of public education is to introduce students to the world. He is not there to protect students from the world.
Carroll ISD Superintendent Lane Ledbetter was quick to clarify late Thursday that the comments made during the training “were in no way proof that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history.”
“As we continue to work on implementing HB3979, we also understand that this bill does not require an opposing view of historical fact,” Ledbetter said.
Still, Carroll isn’t the only district in the state struggling to comply with the new law.
In the Katy Independent School District earlier this month, administrators postponed an event by critically acclaimed author Jerry Craft after parents claimed his books ‘New Kid’ and ‘Class Act’ promoted the critical race theory. The district pulled the books, reversed and postponed the author’s event after a review panel ruled the books did not contain offensive material.
Katy ISD did not respond to an interview request.
In June, in what appeared to be the first application of HB 3979, McKinney School officials have ended their students’ participation in the National Youth and Government Class. A McKinney social studies program coordinator has written to educators that ‘in light’ of the new law’s ban on political activism and policy advocacy, ‘we will no longer be allowed [to] offer Youth and Government as an optional credit course.
The cancellation of the elective appeared to be misapplication and one of the first cases that caused educators to struggle to understand the new law. So far, the law only applies to required social studies courses, not electives like the McKinney course. State Representative Steve TothR-The Woodlands, the author of the bill, said in June that the youth and government election “has nothing to do with lobbying members, so there’s no reason [McKinney] should cancel it.
Following the legislator’s intent could become even more complicated for schools, teachers and parents in the coming months. This month of December, Senate Bill 3written by state Sen. Bryan HughesR-Mineola, and passed at the state’s second special session in August, will place more restrictions on the school curriculum.
SB 3 says at least one teacher and one campus administrator at each school must complete a civics training program. Further, it indicates that teachers cannot be forced to discuss current controversial topics in the classroom, whether in a social studies class or not. If they do, they must show no political bias, the law says.
“What I most hope for is that school districts will actually read the law and apply the law as written and not go beyond what the law actually asks them to do,” Tapp said. “As soon as I read the bills, I expected this to be the outcome, and I don’t think we’ve heard the end of it.”
Brian Lopez is a journalist covering public education at the Texas Tribunethe only nonpartisan, digital, member-supported media organization that educates Texans on public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.
Disclosure: The Association of Texas Professional Educators has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a suit list here.
Subscribe to The 74’s newsletter
Submit a letter to the editor