Censorship legislation and its grip on K-12 education

Education policies aimed to restrict and monitor classroom discussions, particularly surrounding race and LGBTQ topics, create difficulties for teachers.

Fewer teachers are entering the field, and for those who are currently in it, “it’s a wonder we have any,” said President of the National Education Association Becky Pringle.

Her statement addressed the burden America’s educators currently face, specifically surrounding the lack of respect they receive and the inadequate pay. However, there are additional external factors that directly impact both K-12 schools and higher education.

According to a recent report from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, education policies aimed to restrict and monitor classroom discussions, particularly surrounding race and LGBTQ topics, most often create difficulties for teachers in K-12. Ashley White, a professor in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of the report, points to four themes representative of current censorship legislation.

The first theme White addresses indicates that current policies intend to erase ethno-racial diversity in America’s schools by prohibiting “divisive concepts” from being discussed in schools and institutions of higher education. “This has the great potential to stall intellectual and social conversations in postsecondary and other settings,” she writes. “This legislation is couched in false narratives regarding critical race theory (CRT).”

Secondly, censorship legislation also works to limit LGBTQ+ diversity. Similar to anti-CRT legislation, she argues, it falsely and disproportionately targets the “rights of sexually and gender-diverse students and persons,” and it’s been around for decades.

The third prominent theme revealed in censorship legislation is the distortion of narratives via dog whistle language. Fear, White explains, is a method policymakers use to keep teachers in line. “Policymakers, both state and local, intent on curtailing diversity of thought in IHEs and other educational spaces have successfully employed false narratives and whistle-blown language to create a climate of fear and cool the efforts of educators and other educational stakeholders to create equitable learning environments for students through accurate and inclusive teaching practices in schools.”

The last theme, and certainly one of the most devastating, she writes, is the reduction of funding that often results from such legislation. Policymakers can “violate equitable education” by pulling back funding for higher education institutions and K-12 schools at a time when resources, enrollment and employees are all difficult to obtain.


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Call to action

So what can be done? According to White, the state of education relies on advocacy toward educators from administrators, parents and higher education faculty and staff.

Educators should be allowed a safe space to discuss curricula reflective of their student population. To do so, an inclusive curriculum must be established and maximized and geared toward accuracy and inclusivity.

From an administrative perspective, teachers need your support, White explains. “Advocate for educators’ effective teaching practices and expertise in schools to maintain and enhance a positive school climate,” she writes. Update and maintain district policies for parents, teachers and students to thrive.

Lastly, members of higher education must leverage multiple departments, including general counsel, faculty Senate, offices of diversity equity and inclusion and student advocacy. Doing so would promote free students and staff of restrictions to intellectual and social advancement, according to White.

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttp://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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