AUSTIN—In another undercover investigation, Austin government schools admit to defying Texas’ ban on Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools. 

Accuracy In Media—an organization that empowers individuals to hold journalists, public officials, and private officials accountable—released a new investigation into Austin-area government schools. The video shows multiple employees from different school districts admitting that they are ignoring the CRT ban. 

During Texas’ 87th Legislative Session in 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 3979 into law, which was supposed to prevent teachers from utilizing critical race theory and prohibit teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior to another. 

After Abbott called for stricter limits on CRT, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 3 during a special session and strengthened the measure to protect all areas of learning. 

Despite Abbott enacting laws against teaching CRT materials, like the 1619 Project, school districts around Austin have been exposed for implementing so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and CRT principles in their lessons. 

During an undercover interview with Deanna Perkins, a fourth-grade teacher in Leander ISD, she told the investigator that while there is no “formal DEI,” they are “incorporating it in the books we read.”

Another way school districts get around the law is by using a classroom service called Newsela. Newsela partners with the Southern Poverty Law Center and socialist historian Howard Zinn’s education project, as well as being a direct partner with the New York Times’ 1619 Project. They are also known to support the radical Black Lives Matter group.

Stephanie Hawley, an equity officer with Austin ISD, confirmed with the undercover investigator that the district uses Newsela and another progressive site because “it lets us stay out of trouble with the legislature.”

Juan Sanchez, an instructional specialist at Bastrop ISD, was also asked whether the district can teach the 1619 Project to students. He responded by saying, “it depends on the district.” Sanchez added that resources relating to the 1619 Project are not “technically banned,” but it’s still difficult as they are “still struggling with the legislature.”

Outside of CRT, Senior Director of Human Resources at Pflugerville ISD Kristopher Reyes says if a teacher doesn’t use the pronouns the student wants, even if they don’t correspond with the child’s biological sex, the teacher could be sent for “retraining.” 

“Maybe someone didn’t want to address a student by the way in which they prefer and we had to lead some meetings with staff and the parents, and we ultimately support that,” said Reyes. “Obviously that person needs to go to some retraining.”

When asked again by the investigator if teachers are instructed to use preferred pronouns, he doubled down and said, “absolutely.”

“Our investigations have proven that Texas’ anti-CRT law isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. School administrators will continue to break the law and deceive parents in order to push their ideology on students because these radical concepts are their religion,” AIM President Adam Guillette told Texas Scorecard. “The only solution is universal school choice.” 

Texas Scorecard has also reported on AIM’s undercover investigation into San Antonio government schools, where investigators revealed that multiple administrators admitted to attempting to bypass the statewide ban on CRT in K-12 schools.

Pflugerville ISD criticized AIM for engaging in “a misrepresentation of their identity, while also significantly editing a video to convey a narrative that is clearly distorted.

“It is important to note that the Texas Education Code explicitly prohibits school districts from mandating an understanding of the 1619 Project. However, it does not restrict a student’s individual right to express their thoughts or introduce the topic during classroom discussions,” a PFISD spokesman told Texas Scorecard. “The statement by our staff member was in response to the hypothetical scenario of how a substitute educator might handle a situation in which students wished to express their thoughts on the 1619 Project. PfISD Staff was not asked specifically if the district encourages student discussions around the 1619 Project.”

Texas Scorecard also reached out to officials in Austin, Leander, Bastrop ISDs, but none responded to a request for comment before publication. 

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.