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Teachers Describe Chilling Impact of Anti-Education Laws

While book bans make the headlines, the chilling effect of the bans and anti-education laws have an even deeper impact.

Student counter-protesters in Langley, Washngton, protest attacks on their education in June 2021., (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)

We are teaching in dangerous times. The right is suppressing elections, health care, education, urgent climate policies, affirmative action, and human rights.

While book bans make the headlines, the chilling effect of the bans and anti-education laws have an even deeper impact. Our Teaching for Black Lives study groups provide support for teachers in the face of these dire conditions. However, we want to alert everyone to the nature of the repression. What are often reported as individual incidents actually reflect a concerted effort to suppress what students can learn and discuss.

Below are comments from educators about the impact of these laws.

Our school library now looks like a ghost town 😔. — Florida

The Superintendent demanded that my NEA Black Lives Matter poster be taken down. — Texas

We are told to downplay the effects of slavery and racism in the history of our country. — Texas

We are legally not supposed to discuss slavery at all and I teach the Civil War. It’s mind-boggling. — Texas

Teachers feel like they can’t teach factual history or even talk about current events without fear of losing their job. — Texas

I have been threatened by anti-education parents. — Utah

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Students are confused as to why they are not “allowed” to learn the things that affect our current reality. — Georgia

I’m not allowed to use any texts that are believed to have any LGBTQ or racial content. — Florida

Our governor has taken every measure to undo what educators had developed to teach a truthful history of our state. He has made teachers afraid choose any history lessons that deviate from the traditional norm of white supremacy. — Virginia

I am an American History teacher. Every lesson I teach is a chance that I will enrage the wrong person and put a target on my back. — Virginia

The new history standards limit the truth being taught about slavery and Native Americans. Books are also being banned. — Virginia

I have to deal with so many people, from parents to students to staff, who buy into right-wing conspiracies and want them included or validated in my teaching. — Virginia

I was scheduled to have a student teacher for the ’23–’24 school year. But, due to the fear and backlash from the governor, nine of the student teachers, including the one attached to my class, opted to teach another field/topic. The laws have had a negative impact for our district. — Virginia

An elementary school reading program in my district was cancelled after a complaint was made that it integrated too many “out of the mainstream” social studies topics. — New Hampshire

It is creating divides among teachers who are scared of the law and those who refuse to stop teaching the truth. — New Hampshire

The law itself is so vague that teachers are concerned about what they are allowed to speak on during class. Parents can bypass the school administration and go straight to the state with any complaints, which creates a sense of fear for many teachers. — New Hampshire

We’ve had to rearrange our library because we had books that were considered “inappropriate” for middle school. It’s scary. — Missouri

We have to send a disclaimer with our syllabus about “controversial topics.” The atmosphere absolutely has changed how I speak in the classroom. — Arizona

My students have a right to learn about the world around them as it is, and not as the most conservative people in our society think it should be. However, I am always second-guessing myself, because I fear having to deal with complaints from people who are unqualified to judge my teaching practice, and who are empowered by the anti-history agenda of our state legislature. — Iowa

We have been informed that parents are always right, so if anyone complains about a book we have on display or use with students, it’s gone, no debate. — Idaho

They have banned the 1619 curriculum that I previously used. — Tennessee

I had to remove the pride flag from my classroom because a parent believed it to be “political” and “inappropriate” to display. — West Virginia

Members of our community have gone after me as a “woke” teacher. — Wyoming

There are hundreds more responses like these ones. There are also teachers and librarians bravely teaching truthfully in the face of this repression.