AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday signed House Bill 3979, better known as the “critical race theory” bill into law.
The law will prevent teaching of critical race theory, which examines systemic racism, in Texas public and charter schools. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Steve Toth, R-District 15, passed during the legislative session despite outcry from educators and others.
The bill, which will principally affect history and social studies teachers, specifies that instructors who give lessons on controversial and highly debated issues must do so in a way that provides different perspectives and doesn’t show one race or gender as superior to another. By that definition, this means topics about white privilege or the gender pay gap may be off-limits.
Critical race theory has been defined as a movement that posits that race is primarily a social construct that is used to oppress and exploit people of color.
Critics of the bill have suggested that it will make teachers fearful of broaching difficult topics with their students.
“It’s anti-democracy. It’s anti-inclusive of voices. It’s anti-student voice. It’s anti-teacher voice,” Amber Sims, co-founder of Young Leaders, Strong City, recently told Spectrum News 1.
Young Leaders, Strong City is a group comprised of high school students devoted to promoting racial justice and equity.
"What we’ve heard from students over and over again is that they’re not having these conversations in schools. They’re not allowed to talk about race, or they don’t feel comfortable. If they do, the conversations are cut short because the teachers don’t feel comfortable,’ Sims continued.
Texas is not the only state to enact such legislation. Florida’s state Board of Education banned “critical race theory” from public school classrooms earlier this month, adopting new rules it said would shield schoolchildren from curricula that could “distort historical events.”
The Black Lives Matter movement has helped bring contentious discussions about race to the forefront of American discourse, and classrooms have become a battleground. Supporters contend that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race and that the country was founded on the theft of land and labor.
Opponents of critical race theory say schoolchildren should not be taught that America is fundamentally racist. Governors and legislatures in Republican-led states around the country are considering or have signed into law bills that would limit how teachers can frame American history.
The Associated Press contributed to this report