On Tuesday, the House Public Education Committee will hear witness testimony on numerous bills, two of which will tackle similar topics: diversity, equity, and defining hate speech. Are these topics needed, or are these legislators trying to be current and “with the times”? 

State Rep. Steve Allison (R–San Antonio) will defend his House Bill 445 in front of the committee. This bill adds to the “instruction in positive character traits in public school” section of the Education Code (29.906). 

Currently, those traits are courage; trustworthiness, including honesty, reliability, punctuality, and loyalty; integrity; respect and courtesy; responsibility, including accountability, diligence, perseverance, and self-control; and fairness, including justice and freedom from prejudice. 

Also included are caring, kindness, empathy, compassion, consideration, patience, generosity, and charity; good citizenship, including patriotism, concern for the common good and the community, and respect for authority and the law; school pride; and gratitude.

Allison’s bill will add the “importance of diversity, equity and inclusion.” The new bill does not define what the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion will look like in schools or how it will be regulated.

Not everyone feels that this is a need for Texas students.

Former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi stated:

“‘Diversity, equity, and inclusion’ are terms of art used to describe an industry that has come about in the wake of the BLM movement that sells services to schools and companies to help them become acceptably “anti-racist” to the current woke culture. It is designed to teach that people are inherently racist and is deeply rooted in critical race theory. The fact that a Republican would propose a bill to require brainwashing our children with critical race theory teaching should alarm parents, to say the least.”

Another bill on the agenda is House Bill 129, introduced by State Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D–El Paso), that would add to the definition of digital citizenship, “cyberbullying prevention and response,” as well as “digital ethics, etiquette, safety, and security, including the identification of hate speech, racism, and discrimination.” 

The bill does not specify what will be considered “hate speech” or how racism and discrimination will be identified in teaching about digital citizenship.

When asked if there was a reason for the additional terms, Rinaldi said, “Yes.” 

“Now that the left is defining all dissenting views as hate speech and racism, they are trying to insert it into all aspects of education,” he said. “This is another attempt to turn our public schools into left-wing indoctrination centers.” 

HB 129 would also add one credit-hour class (a full-year class) to the required classes students will need to take to graduate. This would be an addition to the 27 credit hours students are currently required to complete.

Both bills will be in front of the Public Education Committee on Tuesday, March 16, starting at 8 a.m. Citizens may contact members of the committee here.

Neither Gonzalez’ nor Allison’s office responded to the Texas Scorecard’s request for comments.

Tera Collum

Tera Collum has 13 years experience as a government and economics teacher in Texas public schools. She recently was the director of The Travis Institute of Educational Policy and Teachers for Texas.