Did Texas lawmakers pull school requirement to teach KKK as 'morally wrong'? Here's what we know.

·6 min read

The Texas Senate has passed a bill that would limit teaching certain topics, notably those that revolve around race and racism. The agenda item was one of 11 pieces of legislation Gov. Greg Abbott noted when he called for a special session in early July.

Senate Bill 3 states that a "teacher may not be compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs."

The bill is a follow-up to an already passed House bill that Abbott signed in May. Among the changes in SB 3 is the removal of a reference to the Ku Klux Klan being "morally wrong" from House Bill 3979, which is set to become law in September.

But with more than 60 House Democrats breaking quorum in response to push for more restrictive voting laws, SB 3 is unable to be brought up for discussion in the House, leaving its future in limbo.

Can Texas Democrats be arrested? Can Texas Democrats be arrested for fleeing the state? What does it mean for the special session?

Here's what we know about the current law and what passage of the new bill would mean.

Texas and 'critical race theory'

The term "critical race theory” has become a catch-all phrase among legislators and pundits who have pushed for limits on teaching practices relating to race and racism.

The actual theory provides a framework for understanding how racial disparities developed and endure.

The author of HB 3979, Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, told House members that critical race theory rejects "the rule of a law as a disguise for the selfish interests of a supposedly white supremacist American society."

"HB 3979 is about teaching racial harmony by telling the truth that we are all equal, both in God's eyes and our founding documents," he added.

Steve Toth is a small business owner representing South Montgomery County in the Texas House of Representatives.
Steve Toth is a small business owner representing South Montgomery County in the Texas House of Representatives.

Toth proposed amending the bill to require that slavery and racism to be portrayed as betrayals of, and deviations from, the founding principles of the United States in classroom instructions.

Meanwhile, SB 3, proposed by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, expounds on that idea while removing references to the KKK.

Dig deeper: What the backlash against critical race theory could mean for Texas social studies lessons

HB 3979 vs. SB 3: Teaching about slavery and racism with, without white supremacy

The passed House bill was amended by Democrats to require teaching to include the following and many other documents:

  • The founding documents of the United States, including the Federalist papers and the transcript of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate

  • Writings from Frederick Douglass' newspaper, The North Star

  • The Book of Negroes

  • The Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850

  • The Indian Removal Act

  • Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists

  • William Still’s Underground Railroad Records

More: How critical race theory has come to drive debate, confrontations in Texas

HB 3979 would require that "historical documents related to the civic accomplishments of marginalized populations" be taught whereas SB 3 contains no such provision. Those documents include:

  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and "I Have a Dream" speech

  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which established school segregation as unconstitutional

  • The Snyder Act of 1924, which granted citizenship to indigenous people or Native Americans

  • The Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • The 26th constitutional amendment, which made the voting age 18 years old

  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision in Mendez v. Westminster, a school desegregation case out of California and precursor to Brown v. Board of Education

  • Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

  • The life and work of Cesar Chavez

  • The life and work of Dolores Huerta

  • The "history and importance of the women’s suffrage movement" to gain the right to vote, including the Declaration of Sentiments and writings by Susan B. Anthony and Abigail Adams

  • The life and works of Dr. Hector P. Garcia, a Texas civil rights advocate and founder of the GI Forum

  • The American GI Forum, which advocated for the rights of Hispanics, particularly for veterans

  • Hernandez v. Texas, a landmark civil rights case ensuring due process for all ethnic and racial groups

  • League of United Latin American Citizens, the first nationwide Mexican American civil rights organization

HB 3979 also would require teaching "the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong."

The list of what documents SB 3 would require to be taught is notably shorter:

  • The transcript of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate.

  • The Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  • The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery.

  • The 14th Amendment, which gave former slaves citizenship and the right to vote.

  • The 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

  • The historic relationship between Texas and Mexico and “the diversity of the Hispanic population in Texas.”

  • Some civics skills such as the ability to “determine the reliability of information sources.”

What HB 3979 and SB 3 have in common

References to eugenics and the KKK aren't included in SB 3, but both bills forbid these topics from being discussed:

  • That one race or sex is inherently superior to another

  • An individual, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously

  • An individual's moral character can be determined by their race or sex

  • An individual bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of their race or sex

  • An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of their race or sex

  • The values of meritocracy and hard work are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race

  • The advent of slavery in the United States constituted the true founding of the nation

  • Slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to the "authentic found principles of the United States"

Advocates, educators and students have expressed both concern and confusion over what the proposed bill would mean for classrooms.

Some state lawmakers and members of Texas' State Board of Education, which oversees the development of curriculum standards for public schools, have said that the documents not included in SB 3 are not banned from being taught. They argue the curriculum standards will be a framework teachers can expand upon.

Texas House Democrats who broke quorum keeping bill from advancing

Thus far, the state Senate gave final approval to SB 3 on an 18-4 vote, with nine Democrats absent while in Washington to join House Democrats in a protest over GOP voting bills.

The House, however, cannot accept SB 3 due to a lack of quorum in the lower chamber. More than 60 House Democrats remain in Washington, D.C., and have not said when they plan to return.

Read the full versions of HB 3979, SB 3

Click here to read the full, proposed Senate bill.

Click here to read the full House which is slated to go into effect in September.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Texas Senate nixes KKK reference in proposed critical race theory bill

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