AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas State Board of Education has rejected a proposal by a group of educators to describe the slave trade as ‘involuntary relocation’ in second grade classes.
The proposal, first reported by our partners at Texas Tribune, was discussed at the board’s June 15 meeting. It came from a work committee of nine educators tasked with reviewing second grade social studies standards. The group is one of several offering guidance to the state education board as it works to develop a new curriculum for social studies.
According to Keven Ellis, chair of the Texas State Board of Education, the committee’s initial draft, included a section titled: ‘Enslaved Peoples in America’ and was introduced to the board last month.
“While the proposed standards clearly described enslaved peoples in colonial times, the draft description ‘involuntary relocation’ for African peoples who were sold into slavery did not paint a clear or full picture. As a result, the SBOE voted unanimously to send the language back to be reworked. This board is committed to the truth, which includes accurate descriptions of historical events. Our state’s curriculum will not downplay the role of slavery in American history,” Ellis said in a statement to KXAN Friday.
KXAN listened to the 13-hour meeting and towards the end, board member Aicha Davis, who represents Dallas and Fort Worth, expressed concerns about the phrase.
“The phrase ‘involuntary relocation’ is used when we are talking about the slave trade… I don’t know if that’s a fair representation of what we should be saying about that journey,” Davis stated during the meeting.
Monica Martinez, associate commissioner for standards and programs, responded back, explaining there was a lot of discussion among the committee about their ideas and the best way to approach those, in terms of the language they used.
“There was some conversation around thinking about what would make sense to second graders while also recognizing there were certain ideas that the work group members felt strongly needed to be addressed. I think there is going to be more work done on that,” Martinez said during the June 15 meeting. “They were looking at some trade books that exist and kind of talking about how would you explain to second graders that a lot of people got to this country in very different ways and for very different reasons some of which were voluntary and some were not, just trying to figure out the best way to address that is what they were struggling with.”
In an interview with KXAN, Davis said she was definitely disappointed, but she wanted to know what led the work group to develop the phrase ‘involuntary relocation’ when describing slavery.
“From my understanding, they wanted to make sure that they introduced the concept at an earlier grade and they wanted to introduce it in a way that wasn’t too scary or too harsh for early learners, because this is second grade. So the the intent was there to want those students to be able to have those discussions, but when it came to the language to actually introduce it that’s where the issue started to occur,” Davis explained.
Stephanie Alvarez, a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and a member of the group, told the Texas Tribune she did not attend the meetings when the language was crafted because of personal issues, but that the language was “extremely disturbing.” She also said would not comment any further because of her role in the work group.
Meeting minutes show the board unanimously voted to send the language back to be reworked, specifically stating “For K-2, carefully examine the language used to describe events, specifically the term ‘involuntary relocation’. Davis said she’s glad her colleagues voted against the language and they are working to ensure the state adopts fair and truthful standards.
“Our work groups will receive it again and think a little bit more deeply about how they should frame the language used to describe the slave trade. And whether you really should be comparing it to the Irish journey here,” Davis said. “Then that will come to us (State Board of Education) for consideration and we’ll have the first reading, we’ll have amendments and second readings, we’ll take our final votes. And then after that, it will be adopted into standards.”
Davis expects final votes to come by the end of the year. The board still has to adopt textbooks to align with those standards next year, which likely won’t roll out until 2025.
Lawmakers are also weighing in on the proposal. Republican Representative Jeff Leach from the Plano area tweeted, “I will oppose this absurd proposal with everything I’ve got. Embarrassing it’s even being considered.”
Discussions surrounding potential changes to curriculum in Texas classrooms comes nearly a year after Senate Bill 3 took effect. The law adds provisions to the state’s Education Code and changes how certain topics such as race are explored and discussed in the classroom.