Bill banning instruction on controversial topics is approved by House

A bill we opposed, HB 3979, passed today by a vote of 79-65-2.This restrictive legislation will limit the free speech and ideas of teachers, students, and state agency employees. The prohibitions in the bill are broad and may be interpreted in ways that limit the learning, diversity, and inclusion efforts already underway in schools across Texas.

HB 3979 will discourage teachers from discussing current events in social studies courses, prohibit students from receiving course credit for participation in activities and organizations that encourage civic engagement, and ban important school-wide race and gender diversity training for teachers, administrators, and state agency employees.

Democrats successfully added several amendments that require curriculum recognizing significant events in Women’s Suffrage, African Americans and Mexican Americans, and Native Americans in U.S. history. Nevertheless, the bill still contains the limits on exploring important current events. 

The bill now heads to the Senate, which passed its own version of the legislation, SB 2201. We remain concerned that any positive amendments are unlikely to survive.

The Republican backers of the bill tried to note that many of the restrictions are based on teachers not being “compelled” to teach certain issues. But we are concerned many districts won’t want to take any risks by allowing teachers to discuss “controversial” topics.

The specific references by Republicans to banning Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project (both explorations of racial issues on American history and society) make it clear that this is a wedge issue for state and local political races. 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.