How new Texas law could impact what topics educators can discuss in classroom

Friday, December 3, 2021
How new TX law could impact topics educators can discuss in classroom
A college professor argues the law is going to cause teachers to spend time trying to abide by it instead of focusing on the education of students.

HOUSON, Texas (KTRK) -- Educators, a law expert, and a Houston parent weighed in on a new Texas law that could impact how educators address racism and "controversial," or debated, topics in the classroom.

The new Texas law states teachers will not be forced to teach "widely controversial issues" or public policies. It stems back to Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to take more restrictive measures to stop the 'critical race theory' from being taught in Texas public schools.

SEE RELATED STORY: What is critical race theory? Explaining the discipline that Texas' governor wants to 'abolish'

Andrew Dewey, the secretary-treasurer for Houston Federation of Teachers, said the law does not define what is considered "controversial" or who and how the law will be enforced.

"The fact of the matter is critical race theory, number one, most people have no idea what it is. It is not taught in public schools in Texas at this time," Dewey said. "The Texas State Curriculum is called the TEKS, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, and there's no reference to critical race theory in there at all. Now, what the law says we can't teach socially and politically controversial subjects, and that's where the vagueness of this is."

SEE RELATED: Texas' 'critical race theory' may be tricky for teachers to navigate

Colleen Schmidt, a Houston ISD teacher, said the new law has already impacted how educators are looking at their curriculum and what they can be able to say when students ask questions or compare what's happening in current events related to the topic.

"We just don't know what the consequences may be if we teach it in a way someone doesn't like," Schmidt said.

Another requirement is that at least one teacher and an administrator will have to go through a civics training program, aimed to train educators on how to address race and racism in their lesson plans.

"That won't be implemented for a couple of years until the Texas Education Agency can actually create it," Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University said. "Unfortunately, what is going to happen is, many school administrators and teachers are going to be spending time trying to figure this law out and how they abide by it, rather than focusing on the education of our children."

The TEA has not yet released new guidance regarding the law.

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