Tennessee has finally laid out the consequences for schools or teachers found to be teaching certain topics regarding race and gender prohibited by a new state law.
Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn recently approved an emergency rule that spells out the financial penalties for school districts, possible employment penalties for teachers and the actual process of filing a complaint against teachers accused of teaching prohibited concepts.
Only current Tennessee students, parents or district employees can file official complaints per the emergency rule. They have 45 days, increased from 30 under the first draft, from the date of the incident to do so.
Local school districts and charter schools are charged with first investigating an allegation as they are "are best positioned to choose which textbooks and instructional materials meet the needs of their students, educators, and community," according to the rule.
Local districts are also tasked with determining appropriate "disciplinary action" against a teacher found to have violated the new state law, which could include termination of employment. The new rule also leaves room for the State Board of Education to potentially revoke an educator's teaching license.
Tennessee lawmakers passed a law in May that allows the state schools chief to withhold funds from schools and districts where teachers promote certain concepts about race, white privilege, systemic racism, and other social issues that GOP lawmakers believe are cynical and divisive.
Though Tennessee law doesn't specify critical race theory, Republican lawmakers have pointed to the theory — which is typically only taught in colleges and law schools — as a reason for the new legislation.
The 14 concepts that teachers are prohibited from discussing include: the idea that one race bears responsibility for past actions against another; that the United States is fundamentally racist; or that a person is inherently privileged or oppressive due to their race.
Some Tennesseans worry that white students are being blamed for dark parts of the country's history, while those opposed to the legislation worry that lawmakers are attempting to "whitewash" history and censor educators.