A north Alabama lawmaker wants to make sure any teacher — in public K-12 schools or colleges — who teaches “certain concepts regarding race or sex, such as critical race theory,” gets fired.
Rep. Danny Crawford, a Republican representative from Athens, said he filed the bill because he doesn’t think critical race theory has a place in either K-12 or higher education. His is one of three bills aimed at banning the theory from K-12, higher education and all state agencies.
Crawford’s bill, filed six months before the start of the 2022 legislative session, comes as the Alabama Board of Education is considering a resolution related to “intellectual freedom” that could affect how teachers approach racism and bias, and changes to the state’s administrative code.
Crawford said he knows critical race theory isn’t taught in Alabama K-12 schools right now. It is taught in law school, he said, but didn’t name the school. The University of Alabama’s law school occasionally offers a course.
“I know in law school there’s a class you take on critical race theory. Why do you need a class? Why do you need a semester of critical race theory?” Crawford asked. “And if you’re going to teach one theory, any theory, just have open discussion, but don’t teach it as the truth.”
State officials have said they’re not aware of any complaints about individual schools or teachers promoting critical race theory in Alabama. Mountain Brook parents and residents did complain about teacher anti-bias training, which led local officials to say they would not use input from the Anti-Defamation League for future trainings.
It’s unclear what consequences schools would face under the state board’s proposed changes, but Crawford’s bill spells proposed effects out clearly.
“If a teacher is restricted from teaching critical race theory as a truth, but he or she does it anyway, then that’s a serious violation,” he said, “and the process should be started on termination.”
State education advocates say it’s not that simple.
Alabama law requires teachers to be given due process, which means they have a chance to hear evidence against them and have a chance to defend themselves.
“It is a clear conflict with the state law, Students First, that provides among other things due process for education employees,” Alabama Association of School Boards Executive Director Sally Smith told AL.com.
Smith also has concerns about a section of the bill prohibiting schools from classifying students by race.
“We think the bill violates federal law requiring the reporting of student data by racial categories and potentially violates the U.S. Constitution,” she said.
The bill is more specific than one already prefiled by Rep. Chris Pringle, which simply prohibits “public K-12 schools and public institutions of higher education from teaching certain concepts regarding race or sex, such as critical race theory.”
Crawford’s bill describes the tenets of CRT as teaching one “race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin is inherently superior or inferior to any other” or “inherently responsible for any action committed in the past by any other member of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin.”
Critical race theory is an academic concept developed after the Civil Rights Movement; scholars say it offers a way to way to look at how racism has been embedded in laws and policies.
Crawford said such ideas unnecessarily call attention to and exacerbate racial tension.
“We have a lot of history, that is not good and we are past that,” Crawford said. “And to start teaching something like that just enflames and throws salt on the wound. The wound is almost healed or close to healed. We don’t need to do anything that’s going to reopen [the wound] or make our feelings raw toward each other.”
“Our youngsters, when they go into kindergarten and start out their education, they love everybody, right? They’re all buddies and friends,” Crawford said. “I don’t want down the road, someone to be taught that hey, because of the color of your skin you are an oppressor or have been oppressed.”