Bill Watch — Idaho, Missouri, and Critical Race Theory

Today, I want to take a look at two bills from the past several weeks that have the potential to cause censorship issues in the comics community and beyond. The two bills in question are Idaho House Bill 377 and Missouri House Bill 1141. One thing these two bills have in common is that they target critical race theory.

In a simplified explanation, critical race theory is the idea that race is a social construct and that racism is a part of our social system. It is an extra tool to use while examining historical and social issues in our country. These two bills are denying specific intellectual concepts to be taught in public schools. Let’s take a quick look at both pieces of legislation.

Idaho House Bill 377

Idaho House Bill 377 was passed by the state House and Senate and signed by Governor Brad Little last Wednesday. Previously, House Republicans had blocked teacher salary budgets due to a concern that they were “indoctrinating” the youth. The Idaho bill objects to the teaching believing it will,

exacerbate and inflame divisions on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or other criteria in ways contrary to the unity of the nation and the well-being of the state of Idaho and its citizens.

The Idaho Statesman reports that “many moderate Republicans argued HB 377 could be the linchpin to moving education budgets forward, which have stalled the legislative session.” It seems that a few representatives had dug their heels in to stall the government unless they could get this piece of censorship legislation passed.

Missouri House Bill 1141

Missouri House Bill 1141 started as an education bill that “Protects certain students whose grade average is adversely affected by COVID-19.” However, it has since acquired several amendments, one being a ban on teaching critical race theory. The amendment to the bill states:

3. No school district, charter school, or personnel or agent of such school district or charter school shall: (1) Teach, use, or provide for use by any pupil any Curriculum implementing Critical Race Theory as part of any curriculum, course materials, or instruction in any course given in such school district or charter school;

Some of the materials specifically targeted in the bill for teaching critical race theory are the New York Times1619 Project and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance and Learning for Justice Curriculum. Much like the Idaho bill, this wouldn’t allow a mention of these materials or the ideas within them.

Comics Community

So, how do these two bills affect comics? Looking at the American Library Association’s list of Top 10 Most Challenged Books, you can see a trend this year of challenges aimed at books dealing with social justice and police reform. These bills are potentially part of a rising tide to censor social ideas. Graphic novels used in the curriculum could be removed due to their subject matter. Does this mean we’ll see the banning of the March series of graphic novels because it deals with social justice? Only time will tell.

Using Graphic Novels in Education Series:

March: Book One
March: Book Two
March: Book Three