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South Carolina one of 14 states that require education about 9/11

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Butch Hills, a sixth grade social studies teacher at Moultrie Middle School, hangs a flag on the wall of his classroom on Aug. 14, 2019. South Carolina is one of 14 states that requires students to learn about 9/11. File/Lauren Petracca/Staff

Every year, South Carolina students spend the weeks surrounding Sept. 11 learning about the day when terrorists toppled the World Trade Center.

The state is one of just 14 in the nation that includes 9/11 in its education standards, according to reporting by CBS News. South Carolina is joined by New York, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma and Texas. 

The way those standards operate in the classroom varies from state to state. South Carolina's 2019 social studies standards require districts to teach students about "the events of September 11 and the subsequent War on Terror" in fifth grade and in high school U.S. history and Constitution courses. 

While teachers can have flexibility on the exact lessons, they are required to adhere to the standards set out by the state, said Ryan Brown, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Education. It's even more important to teach students about the attacks as the nation recognizes the 20th anniversary.

"For those that are students in school now, they were not alive and they don't remember it. It's a way to teach them about the world events that are happening now," he said. 

Students start learning about 9/11 in fifth grade. By the end of the year, they must be able to compare and contrast "the focus of the U.S. as a world leader before and after the September 11, 2001, attacks." The goal of the standard is to have students understand what led to the attacks and the reasoning behind the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Once students reach high school, they are expected to bring the attacks in to a broader context. In U.S. history and Constitution classes, students learn about the country from 1945 to the present. The Cold War and post-9/11 eras play a major part in the instruction in those years. 

Students are expected to understand how America's identity as a world leader shifted and evolved before and after the attacks. 

"It ties together a lot of things that are important to not just United States history and South Carolina history but world history as a whole," Brown said. 

The state also has "inquiry-based standards" for sixth, seventh and eighth grades, which push students to be more thoughtful about the context surrounding world events. Although the 9/11 attacks are written into the curriculum during those years, the students learn about other major wars and conflicts. The state encourages teachers to weave those conflicts together to incorporate modern history. 

Brown is not surprised that South Carolina is in the minority of states that require 9/11 instruction. The Palmetto State has a long history and strong military connections that make honoring and reflecting upon 9/11 a priority. 

"A lot of this is paying tribute and helping people understand how the men and women of South Carolina served oversees and why they did so," he said. 

Follow Libby Stanford on Twitter @libbystanford.

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