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Discussing Race and Racism in Public K-12 Schools

June 25, 2021
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WRITTEN BY Brittany Whitley

During the 2021 legislative session, several Missouri bills (HB 952, SB 586, HA1 to HA3 to HB 1141) were introduced with the intention of prohibiting schools from teaching “curriculum implementing critical race theory” and/or teaching “divisive concepts.” While the definitions of restricted practices vary between bills, the common intent is to bar schools from using characteristics such as race, gender, income, sexual orientation, religion or ancestry to classify people into groups to discuss identity, establish stereotypes and assign blame to individuals.


  • Public school educators may currently discuss race and racism as part of a broader social studies curriculum in order to meet specific state learning standards.
  • Several organizations (e.g., 1619 Project, Learning for Justice, We Stories, Education Equity Consultants) offer additional training and curricular resources to assist educators in discussions about racism and American history.
  • Critical race theory (CRT) is a framework used, originally by legal scholars, to describe the relationships between race, racism and power. CRT is predominantly taught and studied during graduate school.
  • Five states (ID, OK, TX, IA, TN) have passed bills that restrict schools from teaching critical race theory or divisive concepts, and four others (UT, MT, GA, FL) have used other state level action (e.g., State Board of Education decisions) to achieve similar outcomes.
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