Proposed policy revisions for Tyler Independent School District reflect how educators can teach or discuss racism in American history and current events as prescribed by a new state law.
The proposed policy eliminates broad selection criteria while directing staff members to select instructional materials consistent with the general educational goals of the state, district, individual schools and specific courses.
“Instructional materials that are textbooks and related supplemental materials shall be chosen from the list of resources adopted by the State Board of Education in accordance with administrative regulations and objectives,” according to the proposed revision.
Dr. Lance Groppel, the district’s deputy superintendent of administration, said the district is provided a “short list” of approved textbooks that align with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and state expectations.
Groppel said the district also is adopting a recommendation from the Texas Association of School Boards to separate policies regarding curriculum and library materials. The original policy covered both.
House Bill 3979, which took effect Sept. 1, 2021, and SB 3, which took effect in December, provide a list of founding documents Texas students must learn and effectively thwarts teaching what is known as “critical race theory” to students K-12.
Critical race theory is an academic term that studies how race and racism have had an impact on society in the United States. The theory is controversial, with proponents and opponents debating if, when and how the issue should be introduced in schools.
Under TISD’s current policy, textbooks and other instructional materials selected will no longer be required to represent the contributions of ethnic, religious, or cultural groups to the national heritage or world community. That wordage remains in the selection policy for the library.
The proposed revision also eliminates objectives designed to stimulate growth in factual knowledge, reading enjoyment, literary appreciation, aesthetic values and societal standards.
The list of SBOE approved textbooks and instructional materials include “founding” documents by people of color and women. These documents include the history of Native America, Frederick Douglass’s newspapers, Fugitive Slave Act, the Indian Removal Act, the Chicano movement, women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, history of white supremacy, the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalists papers and other historic documents.
Teachers also cannot be compelled to discuss current events, but if they do, they must remain impartial and “give deference to both sides.” Students also may not receive extra credit for lobbying or participating in events involving social affairs or public policies.
Texas is one of several states that have banned teaching critical race theory in K-12.
TISD trustees accepted the revisions during a Sept. 19 meeting and are expected to consider it for final adoption during an Oct. 17 meeting.
Vanessa E. Curry is a journalist with nearly 35 years of experience as a writer, editor and instructor. She earned a B.S. degree in Mass Communication from Illinois State University and a MSIS degree from The University of Texas at Tyler with emphasis on journalism, political science and criminal justice. She has worked newspaper in Marlin, Henderson, Tyler and Jacksonville, Texas as well as in Columbia Tennessee. Vanessa also was a journalism instructor at the UT-Tyler and Tennessee Tech University. Her writing has been recognized by the State Bar of Texas, Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, Dallas Press Club, and Tennessee Press Association. She currently is working on publishing two books: “Lies and Consequences: The Trials of Kerry Max Cook,” and “A Gold Medal Man, A biography of Kenneth L. “Tug” Wilson.
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