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A The Georgia Republican lawmaker, author of a bill banning K-12 schools from teaching concepts about race that some people see as divisive, defended his measure on Feb. 9 against claims that it aims to whitewash history and intimidate educators.
Two hearings have been held on Rep. Will Wade’s Bill 1084, which he says will not allow students to learn about race through a lens that makes them feel guilty or pits one student against another because of of his ethnicity. The bill outlines a process in which parents can appeal all the way to the state school board if they believe their child is receiving lessons about race that are inappropriate.
The endless list of divisive concepts that would be prohibited includes racial stereotyping or scapegoating, making individuals feel uncomfortable or ashamed because of their race and/or implying that a group is inherently superior or inferior based on his race.
In the bill, schools are required to launch an investigation within three days of a parent making a complaint, and if the parent is unhappy with the outcome, they can appeal to local school boards and public.
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“The Protect Students First Act will ensure that every student in Georgia is treated with dignity and respect, and provided with an education without any divisive ideologies,” Wade said.
“This legislation also recognizes that students in Georgia classrooms need to learn our entire history of the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Wade said.
A number of similar bills have been introduced in Georgia and across the country by Republicans who believe parents should have more control over the school curriculum. It comes after months of controversy over claims that white students will be unfairly indoctrinated with so-called critical race theory and lessons about the history of systemic racism in America.
Wade’s measure was advanced by the Republican-controlled House Education Subcommittee during the two-hour public hearing. He is now before the full education committee after another hour-long hearing.
Rep. Doreen Carter, a Democrat from Lithonia, questioned the need for the legislation because controversies over racial history are not common and local school systems have already established procedures for parents to file complaints.
“I really still don’t understand what brought us here?” Carter said. “Normally when there is a bill we try to solve or fix something?”
The bill has been criticized by several people as an attempt to prevent discussion of America’s sordid history of discrimination against blacks and other minorities. At the same time, conservative religious groups praised the bill for making it clear that no student is discriminated against due to factors beyond their control.
As a parent of a Fulton County student, Marla Cureton said she was concerned about how the proposed law could censor and intimidate educators, administrators, parents and students.
“The sponsors of the bill believe that our skilled curriculum developers and educational content partners need to be censored by politicians who fear teaching our students a true story,” she said.
Wade said the bill protects the First Amendment rights of educators.
“That won’t stop a teacher from talking about critical race theory in the news, or talking about what happened during the holocaust,” he said. “There’s nothing in any of this that’s going to put them at risk because they argue when it’s academically appropriate.”
Another so-called Parental Rights Bill failed to get the votes it needed to pass a Senate committee on Wednesday, February 9.
Republican Buford Sen. Clint Dixon said his Senate Bill 449 lists a list of rights for Georgian parents, including the right to review classroom materials, access to all records relating to the child and to consent in writing before a photograph, video or voice recording of the child is made.
The latter raised concerns for Angela Palm, director of policy and legislative services for the Georgia School Boards Association.
This could unintentionally cause problems for schools that use cameras as part of their security system on buses or outside school buildings, or it could penalize yearbook club or school newspaper student photographers. school, she said.
Dixon said he was willing to make changes to address those concerns, and the bill, which has Gov. Brian Kemp’s backing, will likely come back for future consideration.
Obscenity bill moves forward
A bill by Republican Dallas Sen. Jason Anavitarte also aimed at giving parents more recourse to protest their child’s public school tuition passed two House committee hearings on Wednesday and is set to to be voted on in the House.
The bill establishes a process for parents or guardians to ask their children’s principal if they believe material provided by the school is objectionable. Parents who are not satisfied with the principal’s decision may appeal to the local school board.
Proponents of the provision, such as Tyler Hawkins, advocacy director for the conservative lobby group Frontline Policy Action, say the bill would give children better protection than the current system, which leaves decisions to local authorities. Hawkins said he hears from parents that their complaints about school supplies often go unanswered.
“Their concerns were not addressed, they went six months, 12 months, 18 months, without any resolution to this issue,” he said. “And the problem with that, especially in this circumstance, when we deal with this problem is that these materials are always available means that we present challenges because other students look at these materials, other students undergo the trauma of their innocence being stolen, in a sense, because of what this material does, because it continues to be available.
Opponents called the measure political theater and potentially harmful to students. They said books written from the perspective of LGBT characters or depicting difficulties faced by minority characters are more likely to be banned.
Desirrae Jones, policy associate at the New Georgia Project, said trained school librarians organize appropriate materials and parents are already free to monitor what their children are reading.
“Books like ’50 Shades of Grey’ aren’t available in our K-12 schools all over Georgia,” she said. “There are young adult novels and things that have mature content, but it’s not lewd content. These are things that we expose our children to so that then when they come out into the world, they are not shocked that there are people doing drugs, there are people having sex, these are not foreign concepts for Georgian students.
Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact editor John McCosh with any questions: [email protected] Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.
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