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Texas education officials proposed changing "slavery" to "involuntary relocation" when teaching second graders

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Texas education officials are considering a change in the way slavery is taught to second graders – replacing the word "slavery" with "involuntary relocation" in state standards.

The Texas Education Agency, which is responsible for setting curriculums and state-wide student assessment testing, has multiple "work groups" that draft curriculums for each subject and grade. 

When the agency presented the idea to use "involuntary relocation" at a recent State Board of Education meeting, board member Aicha Davis said she was "not OK with that at all." Davis shared a clip from the meeting on Facebook.

There is a viral post stating the Texas Education Agency is trying to change the word “Slavery” to “Involuntary Relocation" in Texas history standards. Sadly, there is some truth to that statement. The SBOE was given the working document from social studies Work Group D, which reviewed elementary and middle school TEKS, during our last meeting. The group suggested introducing the journey of Africans to America in 2nd grade using the phrase "involuntary relocation." I was not ok with that at all and addressed it with TEA staff. The Work Groups have been directed to have further discussions on appropriate language and terminology, and the SBOE will begin readings in the Fall.

Posted by Aicha Davis on Thursday, June 30, 2022

"There is a viral post stating the Texas Education Agency is trying to change the word 'Slavery' to 'Involuntary Relocation' in Texas history standards," she wrote in the caption of the video. "Sadly, there is some truth to that statement."

During the meeting, Davis asked about the proposed change. "I don't know if that's a fair representation of what we should be saying about that journey," Davis said during the meeting.

A member of the agency told Davis that the work group that came up with this language discussed "what would make sense to second graders" while also recognizing there are ideas that need to be addressed throughout kindergarten to eighth grade.

"They were looking at some trade books that exist and kind of talking about how you would 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. I think the very best way to address that was what they were struggling with," the agency member said. 

Davis said the work groups have been directed to have further discussions on appropriate language and terminology.

In an email to CBS News, board member Pat Hardy said what was presented at the meeting was "an initial draft of 2nd Grade Social Studies standards from a review committee that included a section titled: 'Enslaved Peoples in America'."

"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," Hardy said. "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."

Still, the proposal went viral, and many condemned it. Iro Omere, a Democratic candidate for Congress for Texas' 4th district, called the proposal "disgraceful."

"It is disgraceful that the Texas Education Agency would go this far to change how we teach children about the history of our country," Omere said in a statement to CBS News. "Children are being taught that the Civil War started because of a 'conflict of states' rights.' Now to hear the term 'slavery' will be changed to 'involuntary relocation' is an insult to generations of people forced into slavery and the descendants that have suffered the impact of racism."

"We have come to the point now that we must hold the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education accountable for the deliberate miseducation of Texan children," Omere said.

The controversial proposal comes after many Republican-led states, like Texas, passed or considered laws that would ban "divisive topics" being discussed in schools. Some states aimed to ban critical race theory. The theory, which is usually taught at the college level, acknowledges racial disparities that have persisted in U.S. history and offers a framework to understand how racism is reinforced in U.S. law and culture. There is no evidence critical race theory is taught in K-12 schools.

Under Texas' new law banning critical race theory in the classroom, teachers cannot discuss the idea that "one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex." After passing the law, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has asked schools to review materials available to students that they might deem "inappropriate."

The State Board of Education Chair Kevin Ellis reassured Abbott in a recent letter that the board is reviewing textbooks and that the legislature granted the board "the authority to reject instructional materials that are not 'suitable for grade level.'"

The board has until the end of the year to finish their review of the social studies curriculum, Davis said.

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