Teachers are once again grappling with how to address with their students racially motivated killings in America, this time at a Buffalo supermarket where 13 people were shot — 11 of them Black — and 10 died. A White teenager, who police said wrote an online document citing the “great replacement” theory, has been charged with and pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the shooting. The racist theory says that non-White immigrants are being brought into the United States to eliminate Whites. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the No. 3 House Republican, and other GOP lawmakers have at one time or another echoed the racist idea.
This teaching exercise comes at a time in our history when Republican-led states have restricted what teachers can say about race and racism. Many educators are fearful about losing their jobs for speaking about these issues in their classrooms — at the very time that such discussions are as important as ever.
So how are teachers going to address the latest hate against Blacks? Will they?
The question was posed on Twitter by Crystal M. Watson, a math educator in Cincinnati, who asked: “How will you talk with students about all of the anti-Black violence that has happened this weekend? I’m curious.”
Dozens of teachers responded, including some from Texas, who said they couldn’t address it because of a new law that requires them to show “both sides” of issues.
One tweet, by Coach Mack, says: “Rural Texas here. Legally, I can’t touch it. Our law states that teachers cannot be compelled to discuss current events and if they do, they must ‘give deference to both sides.’ ”
Another tweet said: “Not every teacher is equipped for the conversation and their actions may cause more harm” — to which Watson replied: “Get equipped. There’s many resources.”
Here is some of the discussion:
Rural Texas here. Legally, I can’t touch it. Our law states that teachers cannot be compelled to discuss current events and if they do, they must “give deference to both sides.”— 𝘾𝙊𝘼𝘾𝙃 𝙈𝘼𝘾𝙆 (@CoachTLMack) May 16, 2022
I agree. I have no idea how to give “sides” to most of these topics. With the new laws I’m afraid to allow conversation in the room about race, immigration, or anything LGBTQ related.— 𝘾𝙊𝘼𝘾𝙃 𝙈𝘼𝘾𝙆 (@CoachTLMack) May 16, 2022
I’m interested to know how teachers in states like TX and FL navigate the laws and still support students and communities. Gotta be hard.— Crystal M. Watson (@_CrystalMWatson) May 16, 2022
I wish I knew the answer to that question. In Utah I am pressured not to address what are called “sensitive” issues, including race, war, religion and gender. We are obligated to respect “opinions” even if they contradict facts and reality.— witch & nun (@PeytonJCarter) May 16, 2022
Get equipped. There’s many resources.— Crystal M. Watson (@_CrystalMWatson) May 16, 2022
I’m not assuming anything. Allowed vs. able. We all have choices. An answer could be “I’m not.”— Crystal M. Watson (@_CrystalMWatson) May 16, 2022
Over the years each of us finds ways to discuss the things we are not allowed to talk about. The kids want to talk about it as well. Often, they want someone to tell them the world makes sense and it's so hard when you can't.— Mike Espinos, MS.Ed. is headed to the Astral Plane (@Mr_Espinos) May 16, 2022
I feel this heavy. Comfort would be staying home and continue my own processing.— Crystal M. Watson (@_CrystalMWatson) May 16, 2022
Don’t. Advise them to have that talk with their families. It will save you any harm from legal troubles. Especially if you need that check— Frank J Hughes Jr (@HughesForFL) May 16, 2022
I live in Florida, we have laws in place that limit speech in our classes and you can be held liable, it might be different for other states— Frank J Hughes Jr (@HughesForFL) May 16, 2022