HB 3979 - restrictions on civics instruction | TCTA
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HB 3979 - restrictions on civics instruction

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Rep. Steve Toth/Sen. Brandon Creighton

This is the bill that has been described as prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), although this term is not defined or expressly mentioned in the bill. The first part of the bill requires the State Board of Education, in adopting social studies curriculum, to adopt TEKS that develop each student’s civic knowledge, including an understanding of the nations’ founding principles and institutions, the history of Native Americans, and other founding documents.

The founding documents listed by the bill include traditional documents as the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and Federalist Papers, as well as writings from Frederick Douglass, writings on the history of white supremacy and the Indian Removal Act, and documents related to the Chicano movement, among other historical works.

The second part of the bill, which will go into effect on Sept. 1, 2021, provides that a teacher may not be compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial topic. A teacher who chooses to do so, must, to the best of their ability, strive to explore the topic from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective. It is unclear how teachers would be able to discuss such matters as egregious acts of terrorism, genocide, or acts of tyranny by despotic governments without giving deference to one perspective.

The bill also prohibits districts, charter schools, and teachers from requiring or awarding credit for students’ political activism, lobbying, other efforts to persuade government by direct communication, or participation in any program involving social or political policy advocacy or accepting any funding from a private foundation for curriculum, materials or training for such efforts.

The bill provides that school employees may not be required to take training or therapy that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or blame based on race or sex. Teachers and other school employees are prohibited from requiring or making a part of a course any of the following:

  • The concept that one race or sex is inherently superior
  • An individual is inherently racist or sexist either consciously or unconsciously by virtue of the person’s race or sex
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the person’s race
  • Members of a race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex
  • An individual’s moral character, standing, or worth is necessarily determined by the person’s race or sex
  • An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or other form of distress due to the person’s race or sex
  • Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or creates to oppress another race
  • The advent of slavery in what is now U.S. territory constitutes the true founding of the U.S
  • Slavery or racism are anything other than deviations from the authentic principles of the U.S.

Requires an understanding of the 1619 Project.

The bill also provides that a district or charter school may not have any rule or student code of conduct that would result in the punishment of a student for discussing or have a chilling effect on student discussion of the concepts described in the above bulleted list. It is unclear what remedies a teacher would have if students insist on discussing in class concepts included in these topics that are unrelated to the specific lesson being taught.

Takes effect on Sept. 1, 2021, but the provision requiring the revision of the TEKS takes effect the 2022-23 school year, and the SBOE has until December of 2022 to make the revisions.