By Steven Aleman, DRTx Attorney and Policy Specialist
On September 14, 2018, a committee of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) held a preliminary vote to remove Helen Keller from the elementary social studies curriculum.
Helen Keller, born in 1880, is well-known for her achievements as a woman who was deaf and blind from early childhood. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and went on to become an author, lecturer, and disability advocate who advanced the rights of all people with disabilities. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared her birthday, June 27, as annual “Helen Keller Day” in the United States.
The final decision to remove Helen Keller from the curriculum will be brought up for a vote by the full SBOE at its November 13-16 meetings. Disability Rights Texas is working to educate the SBOE about the importance of Helen Keller as a historic figure in the disability community and the vital role of the disability rights movement in civil rights history.
Many of our social media followers have been talking to us about the board’s preliminary decision and asking how to get involved. One way is to provide your feedback to the SBOE prior to its November meeting by either of the following methods:
1. Offer comments at the upcoming SBOE public hearing.
You can provide spoken testimony at the public hearing portion of the next SBOE meeting scheduled for Nov. 13-16. The public hearing is usually held on the first day of meetings.
You must officially register in advance to show up to speak at the public hearing. Registration will open by October 12, and the deadline to register is Nov. 12, the Monday before the meetings begin. We suggest you sign up as soon as registration opens.
When completing the registration form, make sure to mention that the rule you are commenting on is Chapter 113, subchapter A, regarding the elementary social studies curriculum.
2. Submit written public comment prior to the SBOE meeting in November.
Visit the TEA SBOE page with information on submitting written public comments and click on either of the links that say, “Send a public comment on Proposed Repeals of…”
Again, when completing the form, make sure to include that the rule you are commenting on is Chapter 113, subchapter A, regarding the elementary social studies curriculum.
Helen Keller was an extraordinary woman who exemplifies to all generations how determination and hard work can allow anyone, disability or not, to make a significant contribution to society and be a powerful voice for the advancement of others. Ms. Keller once said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” These words ring true as much today as they did when she first spoke them.