South Carolinian legislators have filed several bills that could prohibit the teaching and training on concepts related to race, religion, politics, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Truthful and inclusive discussions about United States and South Carolina history – like the Trail of Tears, the Hamburg Massacre, Jim Crow laws and segregation, and the Stono Rebellion – and their connection to present-day inequalities are essential to accurate and quality academic instruction. No student or educator should have their history and humanity erased from the classroom.
These proposed bills may also unreasonably restrict important discussion of current events in K-12 and higher education classrooms. Businesses and non-profit organizations that receive public funding to teach this history of discrimination or its connection to systemic inequalities could also be impacted, including libraries, museums, and cultural centers.
The E3 Foundation, the Lowcountry Black Parents Association, LDF, and the ACLU of South Carolina call for concerned South Carolina students, parents, educators, and residents to take action in response to several harmful bills in the state legislature that may limit or restrict the truthful teaching of American history and current events in schools. House Bills 4325, 4343, 4392, 4605, 4799, and Senate Bill 534 may prohibit educators — in K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities — from teaching the full and accurate history of civil rights, the African American Freedom Struggle, the history of violence against Indigenous people, and ongoing racial and gender discrimination in South Carolina and the United States.
House Bill 4325 prevents public school districts, public schools, and public institutions of higher learning in South Carolina from offering instruction that directs or compels students to affirm, adopt, or adhere to the tenets of “critical race theory.” The bill also inaccurately identifies the tenets of “critical race theory.”
House Bill 4343 prohibits public schools from, among other things, teaching or promoting any of the “claims, views, or opinions” presented in the 1619 Project. The 1619 Project is a Pulitzer Prize-winning compilation of essays in the New York Times, organized by award-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, that examines how the legacy of slavery has entrenched racism in different systems throughout our country’s history. HB 4343 also prohibits public schools from making mandatory gender and sexuality diversity trainings or counseling or requiring certain professional development, training or courses related to race and gender. In addition, HB 4343 requires public school websites to provide a detailed list of all instructional materials and curricula used in the school, as well as an electronic form to collect any parental complaints about the curriculum, among other things. The public schools are then required to report the number of curriculum complaints received to the Department of Education. If found to be in violation of these requirements, school districts risk losing millions of dollars in state funding.
Senate Bill 534 dictates how the history of America’s founding is taught in South Carolina public schools and minimizes the history and perspectives of Black Americans and Native Americans. The bill mandates that school districts for grades 6 through 12 teach, among other material, “the Native American legend of [George Washington’s] divine protection and requires that students annually read the original account of the first Thanksgiving from the perspective of pilgrim Edward Winslow. The bill does not require any education about the history or culture of Native Americans independent of their encounters with colonizers. The bill also mandates that school districts teach that the “ideals of the American Revolution have shaped American life,” including the abolition of slavery and the campaign for women’s rights, among other civil rights movements. However, the bill does not require that students receive any education about Jim Crow, the Black Codes, or any other historical laws that resulted in inequality for Black Americans or Native Americans.
House Bill 4392 states that teachers of history, civics, U.S. government and politics, or social studies and any other related subjects, “may not be compelled by a policy of a state agency, school district, or school administration to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs” and prohibits schools from providing courses or awarding credit for student work or learning experiences associated with lobbying for legislation, or social or public policy advocacy, including work with organizations engaged in lobbying or advocacy.
The bill also prohibits a state agency, school district, or school administration from making teachers “affirm a belief in” systemic racism, and prohibits instruction of certain concepts, including that racism or slavery were anything other than “betrayals of” the country’s founding principles, among others.
House Bill 4799 states, in part, that “public school districts, public schools, and public institutions of higher learning may not “utilize or require adherence to certain tenants inaccurately characterized as “critical race theory.” Those mischaracterized tenets include, among others, the concepts that “equity . . . is superior to or supplants the concept of equality” and “slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States.” H.B. 4799 imposes new mandates on schools and districts for the collection and reporting of complaints, and requirements for posting all instructional materials and curricula. It also carries stiff penalties that could be devastating for public schools in South Carolina. For example, H.B. 4799 states that “an .. . entity receiving funds appropriated by the General Assembly . . . found to be engaging in” the prohibited activities “must return funding to the Office of the State Treasurer” and “will be precluded from receiving additional funds for that fiscal year and the following ten fiscal years.” The bill also requires that, whenever any public school is found to be in violation of its requirements, all students across the entire school district become entitled to transfer to a private school, which will receive the public funding for that student.
House Bill 4605 is expansive and will place restrictions on entities that receive state funding or tax exemption status, including, among other things, public and private schools, institutions of higher learning, nonprofit organizations, and businesses. The bill bans certain state-funded entities from promoting, including as part of discussions or trainings, or compelling individuals to adopt the following concepts, among others: