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Divisive concepts, parents’ bill of rights legislation passes Georgia Senate

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Divisive concepts, parents’ bill of rights legislation passes Georgia Senate

The Georgia Senate passed a bill on April 1 that would prohibit the teaching of certain divisive concepts in classrooms. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

This story has been updated.

Atlanta, GA — The Georgia Senate, on April 1, has passed a bill that would prevent the use of curricula or training programs which seek to promote or encourage certain divisive concepts.

House Bill 1084, called the Protect Students First Act, was adopted by the state House of Representatives on March 4. The bill has to go back to the House for a vote on the substitute before it heads to the governor.

The legislation defines divisive concepts as the following concepts:

– One race is inherently superior to another race;

– The United States of America is fundamentally racist;

–  An individual, by virtue of his or her race, is inherently or consciously racist or oppressive toward individuals of other races;

– An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race;

–  An individual’s moral character is inherently determined by his or her race;

– An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race, bears individual responsibility for actions committed in the past by other individuals of the same race;

– An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race, should feel anguish, guilt, or any  other form of psychological distress;

– Performance-based advancement or the recognition and appreciation of character traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or have been advocated for by individuals of a particular race to oppress individuals of another race; or

– Any other form of race scapegoating or race stereotyping

The bill is similar to Senate Bill 377, which passed the Senate on March 11.

“We can teach U.S. history — the good, the bad and the ugly — without dividing children along racial lines,” Sen. Butch Miller SD-49) said. “In order for our nation to survive and to prosper, we much teach patriotism, that America is good, though not perfect, but America is good. We secure our future by not indoctrinating grievance, but instilling skills through world-class instruction in language, math and science.”

The City Schools of Decatur School Board shared a letter on Feb. 10 detailing its opposition to HB 1084, SB 377 and two other bills that had been introduced in the legislature. The letter states the School Board “vehemently opposes” these four education bills.

To read the full letter, click here.

“These bills threaten to harm students, cripple instruction, levy unfunded mandates, impede business, and undermine local control,” the letter states. “All of this would be in response to a ‘problem’ that doesn’t exist. Supporters might think this legislation would splash cold water on Critical Race Theory, but instead it would drown our ability to do basic schooling.”

The board warned that if enacted, these bills would harm students by limiting the schools’ ability to begin and sustain the work of addressing equity. The bills would scare educators into avoiding these subjects, or they could be accused of compelling a student or colleague’s belief or action.

“However, not having these discussions perpetuates harm to students who feel unseen, unheard, and unvalued,” the school board said in the letter. “These bills would deny those students the caring adult support to examine past and present actions that have marginalized them or people who share their background or experience.”

The school board further stated that these bills hinder local school boards’ control over classroom and staff policies that reflect community standards.

“These bills have dangerous, ill-conceived provisions that would harm students and set Georgia education on an embarrassingly retrograde path,” the School Board said. “The bills purport to address a non-existent problem, and districts already have local mechanisms to identify and resolve actual problems. City Schools of Decatur urges the House and Senate to give these ill-informed big-government intrusions the ‘F’ they deserve.”

The Senate also passed HB 1178, which will allow parents to review all instructional material used in their child’s classroom.

The bill also allows parents to access and review all records relating to their child, access information about promotion and retention policies and high school graduation requirements, and gives them “the right to direct the upbringing and the moral or religious training of his or her child.”

Local boards of education would have to adopt a policy or regulation to promote parental involvement in public schools. As part of that policy, procedures must be established for parents to not only review instructional material, but object to it as well.

“It’s a simple transparency bill that allows parents to review curriculum that’s being taught to their children for the first two weeks of a nine-week grading period,” Sen. Clint Dixon (SD-45) said. “It also allows them to opt their child out of sex education, and it also allows them to opt their child out of videograph and photograph.”

The DeKalb County School Board has also criticized the various education bills that have been introduced, including HB 1084 and HB 11798.

“The theme I see in all this is really an incursion on local control and local school districts,” said Board member Marshall Orson at the Feb. 14 school board meeting. “Without getting into the weeds of the particulars of each bill and the culture wars that go along with it, I think this goes against a fundamental principle of how we have set up public education.”

Board member Dr. Joyce Morley criticized the legislation as a transparent attempt to shape a political narrative ahead of the 2022 elections.

“There’s no [critical race theory] being taught in any schools. I’m not willing to participate in speaking about it because it doesn’t exist,” said Morley. “Why are there bills coming about to prevent something that has never taken place? It’s political.”

Writer Sara Amis contributed to this story.

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