As students across the state return to school, educators are not only working to keep students safe despite Governor Abbott’s ban on mask mandates, but because of Senate Bill 3, teachers may also face changes to the social studies curriculum and instructional requirements in public schools. Senate Bill 3 (SB3), authored by state Senator Bryan Hughes and signed into law by Governor Abbott, goes into effect in September. Here’s what parents should know.
SB3 eliminates several discussions of the experiences and writings of people of color and women including, but not limited to the following:
- The history of Native Americans
- The Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850
- Writings of Frederick Douglas
- Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- The 1619 Project, which examines US history from the first time enslaved people arrived on American soil.
- Historical documents related to the accomplishments of marginalized populations (e.g., the Chicano Movement, women’s suffrage and equal rights, the civil rights movement)
- The history of White supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and how it is morally wrong
SB3 also seeks to restrict school-wide training on critical issues related to race, gender, and discrimination in the United States. According to the SB3, teachers, administrators, or employees of state agencies may not “require” in their courses the concept that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” Students would also not receive course credit for participating in civic engagement activities and organizations that promote political advocacy.
Black parents should be especially concerned about eliminating the historical experiences of Black people from the school curriculum. Black students score lower than any other race on the history portion of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test.
Research shows that when students can make text-to-self connections to course material, they perform better on standardized tests. If education experts in Texas and elsewhere agree that children need to see themselves reflected in the material, wouldn’t it stand to reason that banning culturally relevant course materials that affirm the lived experiences of Black and Brown students might be counterproductive to the goal of raising the academic performance of these students?
There has already been a lack of representation of Black history in public schools. Further constraining conversation about issues of racism and discrimination may have a chilling effect on teachers who wish to incorporate such topics into their lessons. Black student engagement may decrease even more among students who feel their perspectives are absent from educational spaces and their voices are stifled from engaging in conversations about history that still influence their daily realities.
Parents have a right and a responsibility to advocate for their children in schools their taxes are helping fund. Here’s what you can do:
- Request a meeting with your superintendent to ask how the district plans to respond to the changes.
- Sign up to testify during the open comment period at next school board meeting to share your thoughts on why diverse curriculum is important. Download talking points here, if you don’t know where to start.
- Encourage your school board members to add the discussion to the formal agenda for an upcoming meeting.
- Take note of the positions held by board members and vote, vote, vote! Local elections matter even more than national ones!