Media Contact

Jace Woodrum
Executive Director

May 10, 2023

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Today the South Carolina Senate passed H. 3728, a classroom censorship bill commonly referred to as the “anti-critical race theory bill.” The ACLU of South Carolina denounced its passage and called upon the House to reject it.

“The Senate has given a win to Freedom Caucus legislators who have proven time and time again that they only want their extremist ideas in schools, not the curriculum that’s been developed by trained educators,” said Executive Director Jace Woodrum.

The bill received significant opposition throughout the legislative process with many voicing concerns over how teachers would be impacted. South Carolina is facing a historic teacher shortage, and several educators testified that H. 3728 will increase complaints from community members and create administrative burdens.

“As a former teacher, I know how much scrutiny our educators are under, and this bill throws open the door to community members who want to make educational choices for all children, not just their own,” said Josh Malkin, senior advocacy strategist at the ACLU of South Carolina. “This bill will have a chilling effect in the classroom, wherein teachers will fear discussions about our history. What happens to our future if our students are no longer able to learn the truth of our past?”

Discussions of the bill during the legislative session centered around the teaching of accurate history. Representatives rejected amendments to clarify that concepts such as slavery and Jim Crows laws were allowed in curriculum. The bill was amended in the Senate, but the amendments did not address the concerns of education advocates and parents.

“As a parent of a student enrolled in our public schools, I want my son to learn our whole history. As a white kid, I expect he might be a little uncomfortable at times, thinking about slavery, Jim Crow, the racially motivated massacre at Mother Emanuel AME. But I want him to be equipped to understand the world around him, how it came to be this way, and what he can do to make it better. To do that, he needs to be taught by educators who are free to teach our history,” said Woodrum.

Debate over H. 3728 occurred with a backdrop of increasing censorship in local school districts. From the Upstate to the Lowcountry, school boards have been pulling books off shelves.

One such example is in Pickens, where the book Stamped was removed from curriculum, classrooms, and libraries after being reviewed and unanimously approved for use by separate school- and district-level review committees. The ACLU of SC has filed a lawsuit challenging this removal in partnership with three families on behalf of their minor children in Pickens County Schools and the Pickens Branch of the NAACP.

“The Board’s decision to remove Stamped was antithetical to the First Amendment and reflects a deep hostility towards America’s promise of a free and pluralistic society,” said Allen Chaney, legal director for the ACLU of SC about the lawsuit. “We are hopeful that the courts will vindicate the Constitution and rebuke the cresting wave of censorship we’re experiencing across South Carolina.

About ACLU of South Carolina

ACLU of South Carolina’s mission is to realize the promise of the United States and South Carolina Constitutions for all and expand the reach of their guarantees. ACLU of SC works in the courts to defend liberty and seek relief for its clients harmed by unjust policies, in the legislature to advocate for policy that protects or advances civil liberties, and in communities to educate and mobilize citizen activists.