Texas Gov. Abbott Signs Bill Banning Critical Race Theory in Schools

Texas Gov. Abbott Signs Bill Banning Critical Race Theory in Schools greg abbott speaks to press Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference where he signed Senate Bills 2 and 3 at the Capitol on June 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (Montinique Monroe/Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 16 June 2021 10:12 AM

Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, signed a bill Tuesday directing state teachers how to discuss current events and America's history of racism in the classroom, according to the Texas Tribune.

The legislation takes aim at banning critical race theory in K-12 public school classrooms, the Tribune said.

Critical race theory is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as the concept in which race is a socially constructed category ingrained in American law intended to maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites. It holds that the U.S. society is inherently or systemically racist.

Texas joins states such as Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Tennessee that have adopted similar laws. More than a dozen other states are considering legislation.

The version signed by Abbott bans instruction of The New York Times' 1619 Project, which focuses on teaching about slavery and African American history.

The bill didn't use the term or address critical race theory, according to The Hill.

The law goes into effect Sept. 1, and includes a list of founding documents that Texas students must be taught. It also includes a list of additional historical documents written by women and people of color that House Democrats had added.

The Hill said Martin Luther King Jr's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and "I Have a Dream Speech" are included among the historical texts.

The law says schools cannot teach that "an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual 's race or sex," The Hill reported.

The legislation also mandates students be taught "the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong," according to the Tribune.

It also prohibits students from earning credit or extra credit for participating in civic activities that include political activism.

The Dallas Morning News said the legislature approved the bill in the session's final days after hours of debate and procedural tussles.

Many educators and education advocacy groups opposed the bill, which states teachers cannot be compelled to discuss current events. If they do, they must "give deference to both sides."

"We've got a piece-of-junk legislation for us to work with," Pat Hardy, a Republican member of the State Board of Education and a former history teacher, told the Morning News.

Hardy had hoped Abbott would veto the legislation.

Critics say the law will result in less educated students, as honest conversations about race and racism in American society will be limited.

"The specific references by Republicans to banning Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project make it clear that they want this to be a wedge issue for state and local political races," the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers said in a statement in late May.

"The bill is part of a national movement by conservatives trying to sow a narrative of students being indoctrinated by teachers. Our members rightfully have expressed outrage against this insult of their professionalism to provide balanced conversations with students on controversial issues."

Supporters of House Bill 3979 argue they are trying to combat personal biases bleeding into public education. Concerns that teachers are unfairly blaming white people for historical wrongs and distorting the founding fathers' accomplishments were expressed during legislative debate.