'Teachers are petrified': Texas anti-critical race theory law sends waves of fear over banning books

The Texas legislature this year passed a law banning the teaching of critical race theory in schools -- and the New York Times' Michael Powell reports that it's now led to a wide crackdown of what books can be taught in local classrooms.

The biggest move for censorship in the state came from Republican Texas State Representative Matt Krause, who sent out a list of over 800 books to Texas superintendents and demanded to know if they could be found in their schools' libraries.

In the wake of Krause's book list, educators in the state say they've been accused of poisoning young minds and promoting communism, among other things.

"What began as a debate over social studies curriculum and critical race studies — an academic theory about how systemic racism enters the pores of society — has become something broader and more profound, not least an effort to curtail and even ban books, including classics of American literature," writes Powell.

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Texas educators who spoke with Powell said that the actions of state officials have had a chilling effect.

“A lot of our teachers are petrified,” Sheri Mills, a Southlake school trustee, told Powell. “The really good teachers, if they are near retirement, they are leaving.”

Teacher Safraz Ali, meanwhile, tells Powell that the new rules have left teachers with no idea what they are and are not allowed to teach.

"It’s like you’re walking into a dark room," said Ali, who said he called up Texas lawmakers to ask them to define what constitutes "critical race theory" and has so far received no answer.