Posted on May 12, 2021

Texas House Passes Bill Targeting ‘Critical Race Theory’

Talia Richman, Dallas Morning News, May 11, 2021

A bill that educators say would have a chilling effect on Texas classrooms and efforts to have honest conversations about race is barreling ahead in the Legislature.

The House voted 79-65 Tuesday to pass to a bill that its supporters painted as an effort to keep “critical race theory” from being taught in schools.

It’s a political move that would bring Texas’ Republican-controlled Legislature in line with some other conservative states. And for hours on Monday and Tuesday, House Democrats tried to derail the bill with pointed questions about the legislation’s intent and potential harm.

Dozens of groups decried the bill — and its Senate companion, which already cleared that chamber — as an infringement on speech and existing education standards, saying it would weaken attempts to prepare students to be informed, active citizens.

During heated exchanges on the House floor, Democrats also labeled the legislation “Orwellian,” calling it a way of whitewashing the country’s painful history of slavery.

The idea of keeping classrooms free of “critical race theory” — an academic framework that, among other things, probes the ways in which government policies uphold systemic racism — has become a conservative rallying cry {snip} The backlash comes as schools across the country consider steps to boost diversity and inclusion, including bringing on diversity officers, seeking unconscious bias training for staff and examining their curriculums through a racial equity lens.

Texas’ legislation would prohibit teachers from receiving training that “presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or blame.” And it would ban them from teaching that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously” or that someone should feel “guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” due to their race.

Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, initially introduced the bill by asking: “Do you want our Texas kids to be taught that the system of government in Texas and the United States is nothing but a cover-up for white supremacy?”


The House vote came after days of fierce mobilization among groups that stand against the legislation.

Dallas school trustees voted Monday to urge legislators to oppose the bill. As part of a broad racial equity effort in DISD, every employee is going through training on unconscious bias and dismantling racism. The administration has, for example, pledged to tackle the reasons why Black students have been overrepresented in discipline statistics and underrepresented in gifted and talented programs.


While the Texas bills don’t explicitly mention critical race theory, powerful Republicans tie the legislation to it and it was the subject of much of the House debate. When the Senate version passed that chamber, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick cast it as a win for stopping “Critical Race Theory & 1619 Myths in Texas Schools.”


Education, civics and business groups quickly mobilized to oppose the bills. Superintendents and chambers of commerce have come out against them as have some state school board members.


The legislation originally stated that teachers must not be required to teach current events or discuss controversial issues, alarming educators.


Toth amended the bill to say teachers can’t be compelled to discuss “a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue.” If discussed, a teacher must explore those topics from diverse and contending viewpoints “without giving deference to any one perspective,” the bill states.


Toth also passed an amendment specifically related to the 1619 Project, which won a Pulitzer Prize last year. His amendment states that teachers can’t require an understanding of the New York Times essays or that “slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from … the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality.”


Toth’s legislation would also prohibit teachers from giving assignments that involve lobbying or political activism for course credit or extra credit. {snip}

But educators say that would take away a learning tool that helps students connect what they’re taught in the classroom to the real world. {snip}

Other successful amendments expanded the list of documents highlighted in the bill as “the founding documents of the United States” to include more diverse texts, including writings from Frederick Douglass’ newspaper.

The majority of the state’s public school students are children of color.