North Carolina Senate Republicans approved new rules Thursday on how schools can teach about racism, amid GOP allegations that some teachers are trying to indoctrinate students using Critical Race Theory.
The 25-17 vote went along party lines, with all Republicans in support and all Democrats opposing.
The “Ensuring Dignity and Nondiscrimination in Schools” Act prohibits schools from promoting that the United States was created “for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex.”
House Bill 324 also prohibits promoting concepts such as white privilege, which is the belief that white people have an unfair advantage over other people due to their race..
Supporters argued the legislation was needed by pointing to a new report released this week by Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson that collected complaints accusing teachers and schools of indoctrinating students. A number of the examples in the report dealt with teaching of LGBTQ issues, white privilege and systemic racism.
“The purpose of this bill is to put in place guardrails against the most extreme forms of indoctrination,” Senate leader Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, said during the floor debate. “It is one part of a larger movement.
“The success of that movement will come from shining a light on this doctrine in our institutions. This bill is part of that attempt to shine light.”
Democratic lawmakers argued that the bill will result in history being censored and racist views being perpetuated.
“We can understand that the United States is a great and unique country whose values are worth defending and teaching, while we realize simultaneously that the same country has made horrible mistakes,” said Sen. Mike Woodard, a Durham Democrat. “This bill will limit our ability to hold and to teach these disparate values at the same time.”
The House approved an earlier version of the bill in May. The legislation will return to the House to see if it supports the revisions. If the House supports the changes, it will go to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who would likely veto the bill.
Republicans don’t have the Democratic votes yet needed to override a veto.
Critical Race Theory targeted
The legislation comes as Republican lawmakers have filed bills at the state and the national level targeting Critical Race Theory. About 26 states now have taken steps to curb various aspects of how teachers discuss with students America’s racist past and how districts fight systemic racism, according to Education Week.
Critical Race Theory, according to the UNC-Chapel Hill history department, is a “scholarly framework that describes how race, class, gender, and sexuality organize American life.”
This view holds that systemic racism has been and continues to be a part of the nation’s history.
North Carolina schools have denied teaching Critical Race Theory. Instead, they’ve said they’re promoting equity and inclusion practices designed to help educate an increasingly diverse student enrollment.
But Berger claimed Critical Race Theory is in use, pointing to examples in Robinson’s report such as how a teacher allegedly told students that if “you were white and Christian, you should be ashamed.”
In another example, Berger said The Governor’s School gave students handouts about white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege and Christian privilege. The Governor’s School is a state summer program for high school students.
Berger also pointed to parents who’ve shown up at school board meetings across the state to complain about Critical Race Theory.
“Critical Race Theory is in some of our schools,” Berger said. “I don’t accept that every news story, every example, every parent is just a figment of our imagination.”
Teacher indoctrination ‘fake news’?
Berger disputed critics who said that the bill will whitewash how history is taught.
“It explicitly affirms the public school system’s mission to discuss controversial aspects of history and historical oppression based on race,” Berger said. “Those are the words in the bill. Children must learn this. I have said this over and over again..”
But Democrats questioned how the bill would work if it became law. Woodard said it could lead to a repeat of how works by great Black American writers and musicians were censored in the past from school curricula.
“If this bill becomes law, whose stories will not be heard?” Woodard said. “Which great works of literature will be censored from our classrooms and libraries?”
Sen. Gladys Robinson, a Guilford County Democrat, said lawmakers should be talking about how to adequately fund schools instead of telling educators how to teach. She said it’s “a bunch of political lies” to accuse teachers of indoctrinating students.
“Indoctrination is fake news,” Robinson said. “As a matter of fact, it’s more than that. It’s a bold-faced lie.
“There is no indoctrination. What we need to do is step in our lane and let them go into their lane.”
But Berger said it’s wrong and insulting to say that it’s all “some sort of cooked-up Fox News conspiracy.”
“That quite frankly is an insult to the thousands of parents in North Carolina who see with their own eyes, hear with their own ears what their children are exposed to in the classroom,” Berger said.
Prohibit promotion of 13 concepts
The legislation lists 13 concepts that schools can’t promote. The bill defines “promote” as “compelling students, teachers, administrators, or other school employees to affirm or profess belief in the concepts” listed in the legislation.
For instance, the bill targets white privilege by saying schools can’t promote that particular privileges should be ascribed to a race or sex.
Other things that the bill says can’t be promoted include:
▪ ”Any individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress.”
▪ “The United States government should be violently overthrown.”
▪ “The United States was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex.”
▪ “The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups.”
▪ “A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist.”
The legislation also requires schools to provide the public with information when they contract with diversity trainers and other people who’ve advocated for the 13 concepts or who will discuss the 13 concepts.
“Families and educators don’t want politicians in Raleigh deciding how these stories, how history will be taught in their schools,” said Woodard, the senator. “They want to make those decisions themselves working together.”
But Berger said no one should be against banning the promotion of those “discriminatory concepts.”