Publication

Advocating to State Legislators


Tool 24: Know your rights.

Tool 25: Prepare your messaging.

Tool 26: Contact your state legislators.

Tool 27: State your public support for teaching accurate history.

Tool 28: Organize with local, statewide and national coalitions.

Some states are restricting or limiting educators’ ability to teach honest history in their classrooms. If a classroom censorship bill is introduced in your state, consider providing testimony at state hearings, writing an op-ed for your local or state newspaper, directly contacting lawmakers, and other actions to advocate for state policies that support teaching honest history.

Tool 24: Know your rights.

The National Education Association has state guides on knowing your rights, which cover a range of information, from what educators are allowed to teach about racism or sexism to how educators can speak up and challenge bills or policies that limit the teaching of these topics. If possible, check with your local union; they may have additional, region-specific support for teaching honest history.

Tool 25: Prepare your messaging.

“No student should feel erased by their education. From their earliest years they should see themselves reflected in the American story. It is essential for the health of our communities and our democracy that our classrooms promote justice, give students the knowledge and resources to exercise critical thinking, and equip educators with the best tools to guide them. Educating our next generation of leaders about where we’ve been and how far we have to go is our best hope for realizing a just and equitable future.”

From “A Time of Transformation and Possibility,” a Learning for Justice Q&A with Margaret Huang, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the SPLC Action Fund

Research has shown there is broad support for teaching about race and racism. “Truth in Our Classrooms Bridges Divides: A Messaging Guide” from the Partnership for the Future of Learning is one resource that can help educators prepare messaging that is broadly appealing and invites the public to support their work. Race Forward’s H.E.A.L. Together toolkit also provides narrative guidance.

Tool 26: Contact your state legislators.

Whether you ask to meet with legislators one on one or contact them via email, letter, phone or social media, educators should express the importance of teaching honest history with state legislators. The Intercultural Development Research Association’s (IDRA) guide “How To Meet With Your Elected Official” is a helpful starting point for preparing to talk to a legislator. IDRA also has helpful tips on how to navigate the policymaking process.

We’ve included a sample template for writing a letter to your state legislators in Appendix B.

You can also work with other organizations—such as your teachers union or local advocacy organizations—to find groups that speak with state legislators.

Tool 27: State your public support for teaching accurate history.

By sharing your stance on teaching honest history, you are expressing solidarity with students. There are several ways to publicly share your support—such as writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. You can post your testimonial supporting honest history on social media or even make nonverbal statements, like wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt. You can also sign petitions, joining thousands of educators who have promoted the Zinn Education Project’s “Teach Truth” campaign.

Tool 28: Organize with local, statewide and national coalitions.

“The practice and enforcement of whose perspective is prioritized and whose is erased creates a clearer picture of the harm intended by anti-CRT legislation. For example, when I was an 11th grader, I felt immense discomfort when my U.S. history teacher taught us that slavery was a ‘system of a different time’ and many enslaved people, ‘slaves’ in her words, ‘had good relationships with their “slave masters.”’ Her lesson caused me so much angst that I became combative. Because of my confrontational behavior, the teacher sent me to the principal’s office to be disciplined. I was humiliated and ashamed that I had been disruptive in class, but I was also angry. My parents had instilled in me a love of learning and a respect for educators. They also taught me to be proud of my Black heritage. So, when my history teacher minimized the experiences of my enslaved ancestors, I could not stay silent. These intense feelings of discomfort among students of color should be considered in these legislations, but they are disregarded.”

From “Centering Diverse Parents in the CRT Debate” by Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D.

There are many people who believe in the importance of students learning honest history. Educators can find allies and coalition groups, either locally or nationally, who are working collectively to challenge anti-truth bills and expand inclusive education. You can join or host local events, such as the Zinn Education Project’s Teach Truth Day of Action, where educators around the country who are committed to teaching honest history gather together in their communities.

At a regional level, IDRA’s Southern Education Equity Network is a forum and resource hub for “concerned parents and caregivers, students, community members, and organizational and coalition friends who advocate for public education and student success across the U.S. South.”

Nationally, Race Forward’s H.E.A.L. (Honest Education Action & Leadership) Together initiative is aimed at “building a movement of students, educators, and parents in school districts across the United States who believe that an honest, accurate and fully funded public education is the foundation for a just, multiracial democracy.” H.E.A.L. Together provides tools and trainings to help you organize your school and community for educational equity.

Learning for Justice provides opportunities—such as our Teaching Hard History Professional Learning Cohorts—to network and learn with and from other educators who are deeply committed to the inclusion of honest histories in schools.

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