‘Classroom censorship law’ may impact teaching aspects of Black History Month, opponents say

SB 3 social studies curriculum law enacted in last special session

SAN ANTONIO – Teaching aspects of Black History Month could prove challenging to educators this year after the passage of Senate Bill 3, the social studies curriculum law enacted in the last special session in the Texas Legislature.

SB 3 is what opponents call the “classroom censorship law.”

Marisa Perez-Diaz, a three-term member of the State Board of Education, said she thinks educators can work around SB 3 to celebrate Black History Month in their classrooms.

However, “newer educators are so nervous about breaking any kind of policy or statute within this law that could potentially threaten their certification,” she said.

Perez-Diaz said SB 3 mandates that “educators should not engage in conversations that speak to current events or to race and ethnicity that would make others feel uncomfortable.” She said if they discuss controversial topics or current events involving race, ethnicity or identity with their students, they must tell both sides.

Perez-Diaz asked, “The problem with that is how do you balance a conversation around slavery?”

Carey Latimore, co-director of African-American studies at Trinity University, said, “I really feel bad for teachers who were in

(kindergarten) through 12(th grade) who are trying to address these kinds of issues in the milieu that they’re in right now.”

Latimore, an associate professor of history, was directly involved in the curriculum development of the African American studies course taught statewide.

“The implementation of these kinds of laws might lead us to having difficulty in having those kinds of conversations that are conversations rooted in historical fact,” Latimore said.

He said it’s difficult to teach the good without teaching the bad.

As an example, Latimore said, “Segregation is bad, but Black people did a lot of amazing things through that. So you can talk about those things. But then you have to talk about the underlying current of segregation that led them there.”

Both Latimore and Perez-Diaz emphasized “critical race theory” is not taught in public schools.

They said it can be at the graduate level and in law school, but otherwise, “it’s misinformation that is still very prevalent in statewide and national narratives,” Perez-Diaz said.

Supporters have said HB 3979 and SB 3 were written in response to critical race theory.

Given the controversy, “don’t depend on the school system to teach your children history,” said Deborah Omowale Jarmon, director of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM).

“I can guarantee you if you’re a student of color, especially an African American student, they’re not teaching your history,” Omowale-Jarmon said.

She urges parents and their children of all races and ethnicities to seek out credible sources of knowledge and history beyond the classroom and not just during Black History Month.

“It needs to be part of the everyday narrative,” she said.

Omowale-Jarmon said visitors are welcomed at SAAACAM, located downtown at South Presa and Nueva. Admission and online programming of digital exhibits, virtual discussion, and research papers are free.

Click here to see KSAT’s Black History Month section

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.