TOP News

US: New laws steer some teachers away from race-related topics

New York State Taking Away Some Unemployment Cash From Substitute Teachers, Bus Drivers

  New York State Taking Away Some Unemployment Cash From Substitute Teachers, Bus Drivers "Each claim is unique and there are a number of reasons why a claimant might be required to repay benefits," the state's labor department said.It is estimated that over 29,000 substitute teachers work in New York. State labor officials would not provide the AP with data on how many applied for the unemployment benefits last year because of the pandemic or how many were told they had to return the benefits. However, labor advocates said they believe thousands of substitute teachers and education employees were told they had to give back the cash they received.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — New measures that restrict how race is addressed in classrooms have spread confusion and anxiety among many educators, who in some cases have begun pulling books and canceling lessons for fear of being penalized.

Matt Hawn stands across the street from the former Sullivan Central High School Nov. 12, 2021, in Kingsport, Tenn. Hawn was fired from the school after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) © Provided by Associated Press Matt Hawn stands across the street from the former Sullivan Central High School Nov. 12, 2021, in Kingsport, Tenn. Hawn was fired from the school after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Education officials have nixed a contemporary issues class in a Tennessee district, removed Frederick Douglass’ autobiography from reading lists in an Oklahoma school system and, in one Texas case, advised teachers to present “opposing” views of the Holocaust.

Conservatives used critical race theory to influence voters and win elections. Critics warn the propaganda is working

  Conservatives used critical race theory to influence voters and win elections. Critics warn the propaganda is working Experts say fear mongering over critical race theory isn't about curriculum, but a veiled attempt to whitewash US history and stoke racial resentment.Scholars say these efforts are veiled attempts to whitewash the US's shameful history with different communities of color.

At least a dozen states have passed measures this year restricting how schools teach about racism, sexism and other topics. While educators are still waiting to see how they will be enforced, the vagueness of some of the measures, coupled with stiff penalties including potential loss of teaching licenses, already are chilling conversations on race in schools and, in some cases, having consequences that likely go well beyond the intent of those approving the measures.

Matt Hawn works at his home Nov. 12, 2021, in Kingsport, Tenn. Hawn was fired from Sullivan Central High School after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) © Provided by Associated Press Matt Hawn works at his home Nov. 12, 2021, in Kingsport, Tenn. Hawn was fired from Sullivan Central High School after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Matt Hawn, a high school social studies teacher in Tennessee, said he has heard from teachers concerned about how they will teach controversial topics since he was fired himself this spring as state lawmakers were finalizing new teaching restrictions.

Governor condemns tweet offering a 'bounty' on teachers

  Governor condemns tweet offering a 'bounty' on teachers CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Thursday denounced a conservative group's offer to pay $500 to the first person who “catches” a public school teacher violating New Hampshire's new limits on the discussion of systemic racism and other topics. Sununu had opposed an earlier version of the legislation that echoed a Trump administration order and sought to ban discussion of “divisive concepts” in schools. But he later backed language inserted into the state budget 'that would prohibit teaching children that they are inferior, racist, sexist or oppressive by virtue of their race, gender or other characteristics.

“It’s certainly giving them caution, like, ‘What’s going to happen if I teach this?’ — because the penalty is so steep,’” Hawn said.

Hawn was dismissed after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated.

Matt Hawn plays a record while at his home Nov. 12, 2021, in Kingsport, Tenn. Hawn was fired from Sullivan Central High School after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) © Provided by Associated Press Matt Hawn plays a record while at his home Nov. 12, 2021, in Kingsport, Tenn. Hawn was fired from Sullivan Central High School after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Teaching around race and diversity has been on the rise alongside a broader acknowledgment that racial injustice didn’t end in America with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Those efforts have spurred a backlash, particularly among Republican voters.

EXPLAINER: Why did Modi repeal India farm laws after a year?

  EXPLAINER: Why did Modi repeal India farm laws after a year? NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise announcement Friday that he will withdraw agriculture laws that triggered a year of farmer protests, in what is seen as a major climbdown by his government. The nationwide demonstrations were the biggest challenge faced to date by his government. Experts say elections could be a major reason behind the sudden decision. ___ WHY DID MODI’S GOVERNMENT WITHDRAW THE LAWS? Experts___

In Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governor’s race this month promising to ban critical race theory, a term has become a stand-in for concepts like systemic racism and implicit bias. His Democratic opponent faced criticism for saying parents shouldn't tell schools what to teach.

Some sections of the new laws would seem unobjectionable. Tennessee’s law bars the teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex. But other sections are more murky, barring teaching that promotes division or causes children to feel psychological distress because of their race or sex.

Those vague prohibitions have left teachers worried that any instruction on difficult topics like slavery or contemporary racism could be construed by parents as violating the law, said Alice O’Brien, general counsel for the National Education Association.

Matt Hawn works at his home Nov. 12, 2021, in Kingsport, Tenn. Hawn was fired from Sullivan Central High School after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) © Provided by Associated Press Matt Hawn works at his home Nov. 12, 2021, in Kingsport, Tenn. Hawn was fired from Sullivan Central High School after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

“These measures are problematic because it is unclear what they mean and very much in the eye of the beholder,” O’Brien said. “I think it is worth understanding that every state already has pretty comprehensive rules in place for K-12 about what teachers have to teach. And they’re required to teach the whole history of the United States ... not just the parts that we can feel celebratory about.”

The Rittenhouse effect: Republicans want a Stasi of their own

  The Rittenhouse effect: Republicans want a Stasi of their own The government can't suppress free speech — so ordinary conservatives are now using violence to do it Pro-life demonstrators protest outside of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC on November 1, 2021. | Kyle Rittenhouse enters the courtroom after a break at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 11, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. | People display signs during the Kentucky Freedom Rally at the capitol building on August 28, 2021 in Frankfort, Kentucky. Demonstrators gathered on the grounds of the capitol to speak out against a litany of issues, including Kentucky Gov.

Matt Hawn works at his home Nov. 12, 2021, in Kingsport, Tenn. Hawn was fired from Sullivan Central High School after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) © Provided by Associated Press Matt Hawn works at his home Nov. 12, 2021, in Kingsport, Tenn. Hawn was fired from Sullivan Central High School after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Some have cited the new laws in pushing to eliminate instructional material.

In Tennessee, a conservative group of mothers in the Nashville suburb of Williamson County, Moms for Liberty, has challenged how schools teach the civil rights movement to second graders.

In a letter to the Department of Education, Robin Steenman complained that the texts and accompanying teachers manual imply that “people of color continue to be oppressed by an oppressive ‘angry, vicious, scary, mean, loud, violent, (rude), and (hateful)’ white population.” The books Steenman cited include “Ruby Bridges Goes to School” and “Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington.”

In Oklahoma, teachers in the Edmond Public Schools said books by authors of color were struck from a list of anchor texts, around which English teachers build their curriculum. A lawsuit filed by teachers, students and parents said the district also removed commonly taught texts by Black authors from the curriculum, including the autobiography of Frederick Douglass.

Obama's education secretary does not want critical race theory taught in school but supports a 'truthful account' of American history

  Obama's education secretary does not want critical race theory taught in school but supports a 'truthful account' of American history Republican attacks on race education are "anti-truth" and "anti-teacher," John King, who is running for Maryland governor, told Insider of critical race theory controversies.King, 46, lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside Washington, and about 25 miles from the property where his great grandfather was enslaved. He has visited the cabin where his family lived.

A spokesperson for the school system, Susan Parks-Schlepp, said some reading assignments were made optional as part of an annual review to ensure they align with state guidelines.

In Texas, one Republican lawmaker directed a committee he chairs to seek information on the use of at least 850 books on topics ranging from racism to abortion.

State Rep. Matt Krause, who is running for state attorney general, said five Texas school districts had removed books “after receiving objections from students, parents, and taxpayers.” Two of the districts confirmed that they had received copies of the letter and were looking into the matter, but they did not comment further.

Clay Robinson, a spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association, said the letter only adds to the confusion teachers have dealt with since the state passed a bill requiring educators to teach “both sides” of topics.

“Teachers are already feeling like Big Brother is looking over their shoulders,” Robinson said.

The racial divide in support for these measures was obvious at an Alabama School Board meeting in August where the two Black members voted against a resolution denouncing “instruction intended to indoctrinate students" in ideologies promoting a particular race or sex, while the seven white members voted in favor.

Speaking against the measure, school board member Tonya Chestnut said all children deserve to be in an environment where they feel safe and can appreciate their heritage, but the resolution could “put teachers in a position where they feel uncomfortable, even fearful, to teach the truth.”

Support for gun control just hit its lowest point in almost a decade

  Support for gun control just hit its lowest point in almost a decade In the wake of the 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, a new generation of teen activists emerged who insisted that the old boom/bust cycle of gun control politics in this country was no more. © TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images A display of guns for sale is seen at Coliseum Gun Traders Ltd. in Uniondale, New York on September 25, 2020. - Gone would be the public's short attention span on the need for more restrictions on gun sales and gun ownership.

James Copland, director of legal policy at the conservative Manhattan Institute, said that chilling effects are real, but that appropriately tailored new laws are needed to show schools what is and isn’t appropriate.

He pointed to some episodes including a Cupertino, California, teacher who directed elementary school students to “deconstruct” their racial identities and a Philadelphia elementary school that had students appear on an auditorium stage with signs that read "Jail Trump" and “Black Power Matters."

“We don’t want to chill genuine discussion and clear-minded study of history,” Copland said. But he said students should not be forced to subscribe to a set of beliefs around racism and sexism.

Derek W. Black, a professor of law at the University of South Carolina and the author of “Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy,” said these measures are unnecessary. Federal civil rights law already makes it illegal to discriminate in the classroom, he said.

He does not doubt that some teachers do a poor job of teaching about racism and sexism or that some parents have legitimate grievances, but said they should “get in line with the 1,001 other legitimate grievances.”

“Why is this the No. 1? Politics. That’s right. Politics.”

____

Coronado, who reported from Austin, Texas, is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Critical Race Theory Proving to Be Difficult Wedge Issue for Democrats .
Recent reports show teaching anti-racism and other related issues to grade school children is an unpopular concept among independents and moderate Democrats.This fact was highlighted by a Politico story published Monday which interviewed Democrat-leaning or politically moderate people in six states, five of which were won by President Joe Biden in 2020.

See also