Did Tennessee Ban Classroom Discussion of Slavery?

Analyzing Tennessee's SB 623.
Photo: Tennessee State Museum
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On May 5th, 2022, Chalkbeat claimed in an article that Tennessee passed a bill that would “restrict K-12 classroom discussions about the legacy of slavery, racism, and white privilege.” This assertion is based on Senate Bill 623, which became law in June 2021.

The Chalkboard Review staff have reviewed this claim and Senate Bill 623, and have found Chalkbeat’s statement:

There is no provision in the bill that prohibits the instruction of any events, laws, policies, individuals, or other historical material. Rather, section fifty-one of the bill, specifically part A, subsection five, says that “An LEA or public charter school shall not include or promote [the concept that] an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.” 

Subsequently, part B, subsection three and four, says “this section does not prohibit an LEA or public charter school from including [the] impartial instruction on the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, or geographic region; or [h]istorical documents relevant to [this section]”

Therefore, Chalkbeat’s claim that it is illegal to teach slavery, racism, and white privilege in Tennessee is both inaccurate and dishonest.

Chalkboard Review Staff
The Chalkboard Review Staff often collaborate on Read the Bill and report articles to ensure multiple perspectives and founded data points are presented.