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Teachers say in new survey they’re being told not to talk about racism and race

Over half of teachers and almost 6 in 10 teachers of color oppose legal limits on discussing race and racism. “It’s heartbreaking for our youth," a Latino activist and educator said.

ByZachary Schermele NBC News

Proponents and opponents of teaching critical race theory at a Placentia Yorba Linda School Board Meeting in Yorba Linda, Calif., on Nov. 16.Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

One in 4 teachers report being told by school officials or district leaders to limit their classroom conversations about race, racism or bias, a new survey shows, even as research published this week illustrates the potential benefits of learning about the historical and political roots of racial inequality.

The nationally representative survey, which pulled from responses from nearly 2,400 K-12 teachers and about 1,500 principals, was released Wednesday and conducted by the Rand Corp., a nonpartisan think tank.

Nearly one-third of educators reported being told to limit their classroom discussions in more than a dozen states with state-level restrictions on classroom conversations about racism, sexism and other contentious topics.

One in 4 social studies and English teachers and 1 in 4 principals say they’ve been harassed about policies on race, racism or bias.

The data provides one of the first comprehensive looks at how efforts to restrict classroom conversations about race in many states and districts have affected educators and school administrators.

“It’s heartbreaking for our youth, who won’t be getting the high-caliber education that they could be getting from a multimedia, multicultural, global era,” said Tony Diaz, the writer, activist and professor who started the Librotraficante movement a decade ago, “smuggling” forbidden Chicano history and other books from Texas into Arizona to defy a ban on Mexican American studies in the state.

Diaz, who's a professor of English at Houston Community College, said the numbers reflected in the teacher survey show the “damage” that "censorship campaigns” have done to the morale of educators everywhere.

The survey found that over half (54%) of all teachers and principals oppose legal limits on classroom conversations about racism, sexism and other controversial topics. The opposition to limits on these topics was higher for teachers and principals of color, at 59% and 62%, respectively.

The Rand survey said teachers raised concerns they weren't being allowed to include more diverse perspectives in their curriculum and struggled to square their lesson plans with districtwide and statewide policies on critical race theory.

“I have had parents come in and say, ‘If this is what you’re going to teach, my student doesn’t need to know about this,’" an unnamed teacher said in the report.


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