In January 2022 alone, Republican state lawmakers have filed 56 bills that prohibit the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in public schools and other institutions. This makes a total of 122 anti-CRT proposals being considered across 33 states in America since last January, a free speech advocacy group reported.
The Washington Times reported that the New York-based PEN America, a non-profit organization advocating to defend and celebrate free expression through the advancement of literature and human rights, reported that 12 of the many bills fighting critical race theory have been passed into law in up to 10 states.
These 10 states are Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Arizona passed two bills into laws, but the Supreme Court rejected one on the grounds of technicality. Meanwhile, Texas combined two anti-CRT laws into one.
PEN America's director of free expression and education Jonathan Friedman reported that legislative activity meant to address CRT in schools and other institutions have intensified over the last year. There are currently 88 bills live in the current session, more than double the 34 active bills during the 2021 sessions. Several lawmakers in the same states are also drafting versions.
"Either lawmakers feel pressured to keep political promises, or they feel it's a winning issue they hope to capitalize on in the midterm elections," Friedman explained. "And this is all likely to motivate even greater censorship from all sides of the political spectrum down the line."
PEN America reported that 46% of the 88 bills target higher education, versus just 26% in 2021's 24 bills. Meanwhile, 55% of the current live bills propose mandatory punishment for violators of the proposed anti-CRT measures, compared to just 37% in 2021. Among the current live bills, 15 include a "private right of action" that empower students, parents and other citizens to file a lawsuit against schools and recover damages in court.
A number of live bills now target multiple institutions, with 84 of 88 bills targeting K-12 schools, while 38 target higher education. 48 of these bills include a mandatory punishment for those found guilty of violating the anti-CRT laws. Several bills ban critical race explicitly, citing Pulitzer Prize-winning series called "The 1619 Project" by New York Times journalists, as well as other materials and general racial attitudes that categorizes White people as victimizers and Black people or people of color as victims.
Upon assuming office on January 15, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin immediately issued an executive order banning CRT in public school classrooms. He even set up a special tip line for parents and concerned individuals to report schools that are teaching students "divisive" critical race theory, the New York Post reported.
The Republican leader explained that the tip line is "for parents to send us any instances where they feel their fundamental rights are being violated, where their children are not being respected [and] where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools."