Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn promised to publish educator guidance on the state’s Critical Race Theory ban by August 1. The ban was first proposed in the Tennessee General Assembly by State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge). The law itself doesn’t mention Critical Race Theory by name, but it does address the theory’s tenets and practices at length.
Schwinn revealed the plan to issue guidance in an exclusive interview with Chalkbeat on Wednesday. The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) guidance will also address the question of how the commissioner would uphold the ban, including a complaint evaluation process and financial penalty system. Ragan’s amendment noted that the commissioner would determine how much state funding to withhold for violations.
Educators are also held accountable by the Tennessee Code’s Teacher Code of Ethics. State law requires educators to abide by federal and state laws.
In the interview, Schwinn shared that their department’s legal team and the attorney general’s office are collaborating on the TDOE guidance. Schwinn also clarified that school districts would be responsible for training.
The Tennessee Star inquired with the commissioner’s office whether Schwinn would work with Ragan or other legislators to inform the TDOE guidance, if the guide would be made available to the public upon publication, and if TDOE would distribute a universal guide to all educators or tailor the guide by grade level. They didn’t respond by press time.
As The Star reported, the Tennessee General Assembly effectively banned Critical Race Theory early last month through an eleventh-hour amendment. The amendment prompted a quick back-and-forth between the House and Senate, which necessitated the creation of a conference committee. Ultimately, the committee not only approved the ban – they added onto it.
The complete list of prohibited subject matter within the Critical Race Theory ban is reproduced below:
(1) One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
(2) An individual, by virtue or the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;
(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race or sex;
(4) An individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race or sex;
(5) An individual, by virtue or the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
(6) An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex;
(7) A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist, or designed by a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex;
(8) This state or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist;
(9) Promoting or advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government;
(10) Promoting division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people;
(11) Ascribing character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex;
(12) The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups;
(13) All Americans are not created equal and are not endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; or
(14) Governments should deny to any person with the government’s jurisdiction the equal protection of the law[.]
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