Key takeaways:

  • Robust sourcing. The researchers have screened nearly 24,000 media articles and identified 479 instances of anti-critical race theory activity since August 2021.
  • Find what you need. The database allows users to filter for content based on factors that are important for their purposes.

UCLA School of Law’s Critical Race Studies Program has created an innovative project to track and analyze legislative, regulatory and administrative efforts to block or undermine the teaching of a more complete history of the United States in schools across the country.

Critical race theory, or CRT, is the study of systemic racism in law, policy and society. It has come under fire from local school boards, state legislatures and even federal-level inquiry, all of which have discussed or adopted measures that would ban its teaching.

“The project was created to help people understand the breadth of the attacks on the ability to speak truthfully about race and racism through the campaigns against CRT,” said Taifha Natalee Alexander, project director of CRT Forward.

The law school’s CRT Forward Tracking Project is the first in the United States to precisely identify, catalog and contextualize all of these efforts at the local, state and federal levels. The project not only identifies and tracks anti-critical race theory activity, but also analyzes the substance of the activity in its database to identify:

  • the type of conduct that is restricted or required;
  • the institution targeted for regulation;
  • the specific features of the conduct being targeted;
  • enforcement mechanisms used to regulate the conduct.

The CRT Forward Tracking Project is the only database that compiles anti-critical race theory activity at local, state and federal levels in a single location. Finally, the project is an interactive database that allows users to filter for content based on factors that are important for their purposes.

Many of these efforts to influence K-12 curriculum development have used the term “critical race theory” incorrectly, and have affected plans to include ethnic studies more broadly for students before they get to college.

UCLA Law Critical Race Studies

UCLA Law’s Critical Race Studies Program, established in 2000, is the first law school program in the United States dedicated to critical race theory in legal scholarship. In addition to Alexander, the CRT Forward team includes Noah Zatz, faculty director of UCLA Law’s Critical Race Studies Program; Cheryl Harris, UCLA Law’s Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and vice dean for community, equality and justice; LaToya Baldwin Clark, professor of law; and Jasleen Kohli, executive director of the Critical Race Studies program. The CRT Forward staff also includes law librarians and undergraduate and law school research assistants.

The CRT Forward team has screened nearly 24,000 media articles and identified 479 instances of anti-CRT activity since August 2021. Findings include:

  • Anti-critical race theory activity is much more pervasive and extensive than generally reported. Although media coverage often focuses on state legislative activity in traditionally conservative states, 49 states have either proposed or enacted anti-CRT activity.
  • Most anti-critical race theory proposals have been in Florida, Virginia, Missouri and the U.S. Congress.
  • Local school board anti-critical race theory measures make up more than 20%, or 110, of the total activity in the CRT Forward database. California, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia have introduced the most anti-critical race theory measures at the local school board level, with California enacting five of the eight proposed measures.
  • Nearly half of the activities tracked in the CRT Forward database rely on concepts from the now-revoked Trump Administration Executive Order 13950, often referred to as the “Equity Gag Order.” Slightly more than half of the anti-critical race theory measures (244 out of 479) in the database use at least one concept.
  • The most common enforcement mechanism of these measures is the withholding funding or issuing fines against individual teachers, administrators, schools and entire school districts. Of the anti-critical race theory measures that include enforcement mechanisms, 87% require funds be withheld or fines issued for engaging in prohibited conduct.
  • Approximately 94% of the identified anti-critical race theory measures target K-12 and higher education. Eighty-two percent advocate for police teaching in K-12 schools.

CRT Forward is funded by a $400,000 grant from Lumina Foundation’s Racial and Equity Fund and support from UCLA School of Law. Along with the tracking project, CRT Forward will continue to develop resources for the advancement of new ideas and legal tools that support anti-racist education, training and research.

“CRT Forward brings to bear the research capacity and expertise of UCLA’s unique Critical Race Studies program,” Zatz said. “We need critical race theory to understand this assault on racial justice, where even naming structural racism gets portrayed as unfair to white people. And we need CRT to develop legal theories of education and free speech that not only blunt these attacks but place anti-racism at the center of a democratic society.”