87th LegislatureEducationState HouseState SenateOne Year Later, Confusion Remains Over Application and Enforcement of ‘Critical Race Theory’ Ban

The responses to last year's ban have been mixed, and some lawmakers are doubtful that it is having a measurable effect on Texas classrooms.
August 18, 2022
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On September 17th, 2021, during a special session, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill (SB) 3 into law. According to supporters, the bill seeks to eliminate the influence of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) from Texas public schools. 

The legislation received a polarized response from those in Washington and in Austin, with some detractors claiming it would limit difficult classroom conversations regarding topics like black history and slavery. 

Texas House Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Farmers Branch), tweeted last September, “Texas Republicans want to divide students in our classrooms and silence their voices.”

Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands), author of the original bill passed in the Texas House last spring, believes it does nothing of the sort. 

Toth’s bill House Bill (HB) 3979 passed in the regular session, and carries the brunt of the changes to Texas curricula. SB 3 clarified and expanded upon the original bill in minor ways. 

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In a press release following the passage of his bill, Toth claimed that the legislation ensures the “Teaching of true historical facts, warts and all. We have an encouraging history of improvement and we need to share that message with our kids.” 

“In America, success is determined by your work, not your skin color. That’s what we need to teach.”

Defenders of CRT claim that it focuses on examining the biases in social institutions that discriminate against people of color, but critics claim it divides people by race and assigns collective guilt for individual wrongdoing.

To achieve the goal of eliminating CRT from the classroom, SB 3 prohibits instruction that claims: 

  • one race or sex is inherently better than another
  • people, by virtue of their race or sex, can be inherently prejudiced or oppressive
  • because of their race or sex, people can bear responsibility for past wrongs committed by members of the same race or sex
  • people should feel discomfort, guilt, or anguish because of their race or sex

There are more changes outlined in SB 3.

As the school year begins in Texas, there is still confusion regarding the bill’s implementation and effect on social studies curriculum. 

One aspect of the bill that has created confusion is its requirement that teachers discuss current political and social topics with “diverse and contending perspectives.” Some educators even believed they had to discuss the Holocaust from the perpetrators’ perspective, which defenders of SB 3 denied.

Toth believes that the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is guilty of misinforming educators, telling The Texan, “The Texas Association of School Boards continues to lie about the bill. You have teachers saying, ‘we can’t teach Jim Crow, we can’t teach slavery.’ Yes you can.”

“In fact, my bill states very clearly that you can. My bill states that slavery and Jim Crow were failures of society. They are lying. They are completely lying.”

In the August meeting of the SBOE, drafts were submitted for the new Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for social studies and history. The TEKS are updated every eight years and outline the standardized curriculum for Texas public schools.

Toth believes that through these drafts, the SBOE has actively tried to skirt around the law, submitting a curriculum that is not reflective of SB 3.

“The State Board of Education is trying to rewrite the history TEKS, and they’re replete with Critical Race Theory, and LGBTQ topics. They are littered with it,” Toth added. 

“If you look at the bill, it’s very clear. If you’re doing these things, if you are blaming, if you are scapegoating someone because of the color of their skin or gender, you are in violation of the bill.”

Outside of the SBOE, there is evidence of misleading guidance for the enforcement and influence of SB 3 on a local, school district level. 

In a recording from a Conroe ISD staff meeting regarding the application of the bill, Assistant Superintendent Tamika Taylor asserted, “What I am telling the team, that in regards to the presentations at the leadership conference, topics will include culturally responsive teaching, diversity equity and inclusion, and equitable learning.”

“As long as the presenters are not using those ‘buzz words’ that have been in the media, they will be fine.”

In another video taken by a Woodlands High School student, a teacher told her class, “Can we just say that white people have power over black people? We still have the binary of whites have privilege over blacks.”

“When I say the critical theories are where things get real, it’s because it’s true. You can’t tiptoe around this stuff. I am trying to stretch your brains in a number of different ways.”

A Fort Worth ISD dual credit course also came under fire earlier this year for its required materials, including a work from activist Ibram X. Kendi, that possibly violated SB 3’s ban on CRT.

Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) is the latest to criticize texts circulated in Texas public schools. 

He filed challenges to 23 books that he claims “contain graphic depictions of adult-child sexual relationships, other forms of rape, oral sex, sodomy and exchanging sex for drugs and money.”

Some believe that possible violations of the bill are due to the lack of enforcement by Abbott and the Texas Education Agency.

Wade Miller, director of Citizens at The Center For Renewing America, a conservative advocacy organization, told The Texan, “The wording itself is not bad, the problem is that the bill does not provide any mandatory enforcement mechanism.”

“I have seen no real effort from the executive branch agencies and Governor Abbott’s office to provide guidance regarding the enforcement of this legislation,” he continued.

“I would say that the effectiveness of the bill is almost zero percent. I can go on just about any school district website and find resources that support the praxis of CRT.”

Without a specific enforcement mechanism explicitly written into the bill, Miller does not believe that the law will do anything to eliminate the concept from Texas public schools. 

The only publicly available guidance the Texas Education Agency provided regarding the enforcement of SB 3 is a short overview of the changes outlined. 

Between the confusion regarding the application of the bill and possible efforts to avoid its enforcement, school curricula will be a major issue in the upcoming school year and legislative session.

The Texan reached out to the Texas Education Agency for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Editors Note: This article has been updated to include context regarding HB 3979.

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Hudson Callender

Hudson Callender is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of San Antonio, Texas. Hudson recently graduated cum laude from Trinity University with majors in Economics and Political Science, and loves to study ancient history. Hudson is also an avid mountaineer, backpacker, and paddler, often leading trips to remote wilderness areas. Outside of his love for nature, history, and Lone Star beer, Hudson spends his weekends arguing with his friends about football, and will always stick up for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and San Antonio Spurs.