Over the last several months, officials nationwide have raced to enact new laws and introduce new policies meant to shape how students discuss the nation’s past — and its present.
Many of these efforts have attempted to ban critical race theory, the academic framework that examines how policies and the law perpetuate systemic racism. In other states, lawmakers have tried to restrict specific kinds of antiracism training or the teaching of “divisive” concepts. The picture is varied, though, and other states are adding ethnic studies courses or incorporating more about people of color into their learning standards.
The impact of these discussions on classrooms remains to be seen.
HB 11 Alabama
Restrictions on teaching. State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey presented a revised resolution targeting elements of critical race theory at a July 13 state board of education meeting. The resolution would bar instruction of concepts that have “a tendency to oppress others” or suggest “the need to feel guilt or anguish” on the basis of race and sex. The resolution appears to target the teaching of concepts such as white privilege, male privilege, and white guilt. The bill also declares, “The Alabama State Board of Education believes that the United States of America is not an inherently racist country, and the state of Alabama is not an inherently racist state.” The board could vote to adopt the resolution in August. Additionally, State Rep. Danny Crawford (R-Athens) pre-filed House Bill 11 on July 15, which would give schools the power to fire teachers for teaching critical race theory.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy tweeted in May that critical race theory is “a false narrative” promoting “division,” with “no place in our schools.” Since June, at least 14 Alaska teachers have signed a nationwide pledge from the Zinn Education Project to teach through the lens of critical race theory regardless of any legislation barring it.
SB 1532, Arizona
Restrictions on teaching Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation July 9 that prohibits teachers from instructing about unconscious bias or responsibility for historic acts of racism, as well as other instruction that “presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex.” HB2898 also bars lessons taking aim at meritocracy. Teachers could lose their certifications and their schools could be fined up to $5,000 for noncompliance.
HB 1231 Arkansas
Restrictions on teaching the ‘1619 Project’ In Arkansas, the Saving American History Act died in committee in February, but the effort to ban critical race theory in the classroom continues. The bill, proposed by Rep. Mark Lowery sought to “prohibit the use of public school funds to teach the ‘1619 Project.’” On June 7, Lowery wrote a letter to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge seeking feedback on “the legality of teaching so-called ‘anti-racism’ and Critical Race Theory in Arkansas public schools and universities.”
Board of Ed enacts critical race theory ban. On June 10, the Florida State Board of Education voted unanimously to ban teaching of the 1619 Project and critical race theory, which it defines as “as the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.” Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis supported the ban.
Opposition to critical race theory. On May 20, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sent a letter to the state Board of Education “opposing critical race theory in our schools,” calling it “anti-American.” In response to Kemp’s letter, Georgia’s Board of Education passed a resolution opposing lessons about systemic racism and unconscious bias, as well as instruction related to the 1619 Project discussing racism’s role in the United States’ founding. The resolution also states that no state school district or school administration policy should “compel” educators to “discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues.”
HB 377 Idaho
Restrictions on critical race theory. Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed a bill in April restricting the use of critical race theory in schools, despite receiving more than 100 emails calling for a veto.
Opposition to critical race theory. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita led 19 other state attorneys general in asking the U.S. Department of Education to ban the teaching of critical race theory because, according to Rokita’s May 19 letter, it “distorts, rather than illuminates, a proper and accurate understanding of our nation’s history and governmental institutions.” On June 23, Rokita released a 16-page “Parents Bill of Rights” that urges parents to oppose the use of the 1619 Project in instruction as well as the teaching of history and government through the lens of historic racism.
HB 802 Iowa
Restrictions on teaching. On June 8, Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that she signed a bill limiting instruction on institutional racism, white privilege, and critical race theory in Iowa classrooms, including public universities.
BR 60, BR 69 Kentucky
Restrictions on teaching. Kentucky Rep. Joseph Fischer has prefiled a bill for the 2022 legislative session that will prohibit teachers from discussing certain “concepts related to race, sex, and religion” and would require that “a school district employee that violates the prohibition is subject to disciplinary action.” A similar measure, BR 69, seeks to add more urgency to the possible enactment of such a law by “declaring an emergency.”
SB 460 Michigan
Restrictions on teaching the ‘1619 Project’ A bill introduced by senior lawmakers in the Michigan Senate in late May would cut funding to districts that teach critical race theory, the “1619 Project,” or a list of “anti-American and racist theories.” A similar bill was filed in the house by Rep. Andrew Beeler.
Senate Resolution 56 Mississippi
Opposition to critical race theory. A bill opposing critical race theory failed to advance in Mississippi this legislative session.
SB 5 Missouri
Opposition to critical race theory. Republican State Rep. Chuck Basye and State Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin sent a letter to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, asking him to convene a special legislative session to discuss instruction on critical race theory and the “1619 Project” in Missouri schools. The May 26 letter labels both “radical.” In March state senator Rick Brattin filed Senate Bill 586, which would ban the teaching of “divisive concepts,” but that bill did not make it to a vote before the regular legislative session. A similar bill, SB 5, introduced in the June special legislative session also failed to advance.
Restrictions on teaching. On May 27, Montana’s Attorney General Austin Knudsen issued a “binding opinion” banning critical race theory and certain kinds of antiracism training in schools. He stated, “Montana law does not tolerate schools, other government entities, or employers implementing CRT and antiracist programming in a way that treats individuals differently on the basis of race or that creates a racially hostile environment.”
Restrictions on teaching. Leaders of several school districts across New Hampshire have opposed a bill that seeks to restrict the teaching of what Republican sponsors have labeled the “divisive concepts” of critical race theory. If passed, the bill will impact any “school district, school, college, or university which receives grants, funds, or assets from the state of New Hampshire.”
HB 324 North Carolina
Restrictions on teaching. Legislators are considering a bill that limits teaching on institutional racism, white privilege, and critical race theory. Another bill in the North Carolina General Assembly would require teachers to post all lesson plans, assignments, and instructional materials, which a progressive group criticized as a tactic to allow conservatives to “cherry-pick examples of ‘liberal indoctrination.
HB 322 Ohio
Restrictions on teaching. In May, Ohio state Rep. Don Jones proposed a bill for the 2021-22 legislative session that would limit teaching on institutional racism, white privilege, and critical race theory.
HB 1775 Oklahoma
Restrictions on teaching. On May 7, Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law a measure that limits teaching on institutional racism, the myth of meritocracy, white privilege, and the concepts of critical race theory. Stitt signed the bill despite objections from the Oklahoma Parent and Teacher Association. And on May 27, legislators passed a resolution deterring the use of critical race theory and The 1619 Project in professional development for educators.
HB 1532 Pennsylvania
Opposition to critical race theory. Republican Reps. Barb Gleim and Russ Diamond are among the sponsors of HB 1532, a measure that would restrict “racist and sexist concepts” in public schools and universities. The Teaching Racial and Universal Equality (TRUE) Act was introduced in the House on March 3 and was referred to the House Education Committee on June 7. In a memo, Gleim and Diamond said that the bill is “aimed at curtailing the divisive nature of concepts more commonly known as “critical race theory.
HB 6070 Rhode Island
Opposition to critical race theory. A bill banning elements of critical race theory, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Patricia Morgan, failed to advance past committee. The legislation attempted to “prohibit making any individual feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of their race or sex.”
HB 4325 South Carolina
Opposition to critical race theory. A South Carolina bill introduced in May remains in committee. If it advances, the bill will prevent public schools and universities from providing instruction on critical race theory or compelling students “to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to the tenets.”
HB 432 5 South Dakota.
Opposition to the ‘1619 Project’ Republican Gov. Kristi Noem sent a letter to the Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s public universities, asking them to “preserve honest, patriotic education throughout South Dakota.” In the May 24 letter, she specifically targeted the “1619 Project” as “infused with errors and misstatements about our nation’s history.”
SB 623, HB 580 Tennessee
Restrictions on teaching. Over the objection of the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance and the Tennessee ACLU, Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed into law a measure that withholds funding from school districts if teachers tie certain events to institutional racism, white privilege, and critical race theory. Legal scholars have said that the new law “suffers from serious overbreadth and vagueness problems” and will “have a chilling effect on teachers.”
SB 3 Texas
Restrictions on teaching. On June 15, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill banning elements of critical race theory in the classroom. The legislation could also prohibit classroom simulations and community service projects. One section of the measure states that schools and teachers cannot make a part of the class coursework “political activism, lobbying, or efforts to persuade members of the legislative or executive branch at the federal, state, or local level to take specific actions by direct communication.” Teachers also cannot require “participation in any internship, practicum, or similar activity involving social or public policy advocacy.” A revised version of that legislation, which passed the Texas Senate on July 16, removes the mandate to teach pivotal civil rights documents, such as the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and Dolores Huerta.
HR 901 Utah
Opposition to critical race theory. In May, Utah’s House Resolution on Critical Theory passed both legislative chambers. Less restrictive than similar legislation in Texas and Tennessee, the Utah bill urges the state education officials to ensure certain ideas are not taught in schools and was opposed by the state’s Educational Equity Coalition.
SB 618 West Virginia
Ban on teaching “divisive acts” stalls. A West Virginia bill introduced in February stalled. The bill sought to prohibit the teaching of critical race theory and “divisive acts” in schools. The legislation defined a number of “divisive concepts that would be prohibited from classrooms, including teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex, or that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.
SB 411 Wisconsin
Teachers must post curriculum. In June, Republican senators in Wisconsin introduced Senate Bill 411. The bill prohibits instruction that suggests that an individual “bears responsibility for acts committed in the past by other individuals of the same race or sex.” Additionally, the bill requires school boards and charter operators “to post all curricula used in schools” online. If the bill becomes law, districts and charter operators that fail to comply with it may lose 10% of their state funding.