Bills requiring public schools teach specific aspects of American history die in Louisiana Legislature

The Louisiana House of Representatives listen to testimony on a bill. (JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)

A bill from Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Denham Springs) that would have required public schools to teach specific aspects of American history — including the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Civics and the Holocaust — was amended by the Louisiana Senate to include lessons on the “contribution of African Americans and the history of the enslavement of African Americans.” But Hodges asked the House to reject those amendments to House Bill 352, and the bill died.

Hodges sponsored another piece of legislation, House Bill 416, that would have required BESE “consider implementing” into the public school curriculum “the history of World War II and the Holocaust,” but it was never brought up in the Senate.

Sen. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe), who added on the amendments requiring lessons about slavery and Black people’s contributions to the country, said her concern with Hodges’ original bill was that it required public schools to “teach theories that other people believed, and that was putting someone else’s thoughts into someone else’s head.”

Hodges originally wanted a bill requiring public schools teach the country’s “founding principles” — including “national sovereignty,” “individual responsibility,” “the Creator-endowed unalienable rights of the people” and “private property rights.”

Hodges’ bills added to the tension between White and Black lawmakers in the House Education Committee and the full chamber. 

Hodges’ bills were heard after a failed effort by Garofalo to prevent Louisiana’s public schools from teaching that the U.S. or the state of Louisiana is systematically racist or sexist. When the House Education Committee debated Garofalo’s bill in April, he said that lessons about slavery should include “the good, the bad, the ugly,” and was instantly criticized. Not only was his legislation killed in committee, but the Black Caucus also asked House Speaker Clay Schexnayder to remove Garofalo as head of the House Education Committee. Schexnayder officially removed Garofalo as chair last month.

When the legislation was introduced in House Education Committee in May, Hodges tried to amend her bill to include language that would prevent schools from using textbooks or other learning materials that “provide that a particular sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior to another,” Rep. Ken Brass, a Vacherie Democrat and member of the Legislative Black Caucus, Hodges was essentially pushing Garofalo’s bill “in disguise.”

After her bills died, Hodges tried Thursday to introduce House Resolution 202 asking BESE to incorporate into the state’s curriculum some of the same topics her failed bill addressed including “the importance of private property, free markets, the law of supply and demand, and the role of profits,” to the Louisiana House.

Her resolution didn’t pass.