Tennessee Teachers Union Challenges State’s Curriculum Restrictions

The Tennessee Education Association and five dedicated public school educators have taken a stand against the state’s curriculum restrictions, filing a lawsuit on Wednesday to challenge the constitutionality of the limitations imposed on teaching racial and gender issues.

At the heart of the legal battle is the controversial “prohibited concepts law” enacted in 2021, which bars certain subjects from being taught in classrooms. According to the law, Tennessee teachers are not allowed to instruct students that an individual’s race or sex makes them inherently privileged, racist or oppressive.

Schools that violate the policy might face penalties as grave as a cut in funding.

President of the Tennessee Education Association Tanya T. Coats expressed her concerns, saying, “There is no group of individuals more passionate and committed to ensuring Tennessee students receive a high-quality education than public school educators. This law interferes with Tennessee teachers’ job to provide a fact-based, well-rounded education to their students.”

The teachers union alleges that the law is “unconstitutionally vague” and violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, leaving educators unsure about what they can teach and potentially leading to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

The law not only impacts the quality of education but also conflicts with the state’s own academic standards and curriculum. Teachers, who have already invested countless hours trying to comprehend the unclear requirements, find themselves in an impossible position, unable to provide the best education to their students.

The legislation also prohibits schools from teaching that an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment based on their race or sex, as well as the concept that an individual’s moral character is determined by their race or sex.

However, with strict penalties for transgressions, including withholding funds from non-compliant schools, educators are challenging the constitutionality and fairness of such measures.

With the law, Tennessee would join states like Texas, Florida and Oklahoma in implementing such restrictions.