Teachers would be prevented from promoting or compelling students to believe in a list of concepts that centers around racism and sexism under revisions made to House Bill 324, a controversial piece of legislation that attempts to set guidelines on how the country’s racial history is taught in the state’s public school classrooms.
Sen. Phil Berger introduced revisions to the bill on Wednesday.
“It is an effort to make it clear that we want our teachers to teach the full history, but we do not want students to be indoctrinated, which is why the bill deals with prohibiting the promotion of certain aspects,” Berger told a Senate education committee.
Berger defined “promote” as compelling students to profess belief in the concepts. Such language does not mean that teachers can’t talk about certain issues, he said.
Under one of the concepts, schools would be prohibited from promoting the idea that individuals, solely by virtue of their race or sex, bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex. Another concept deals with individuals feeling guilt or anguish because of their race or sex.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson told the education committee that next week he will release a report detailing complaints that parents have made about public school teachers to a task force he launched in March.
The task force was set up to give parents a place to report alleged incidents of harassment or incidents of teachers trying to influence students’ political views with their own.
The release of those complaints, Berger said, will provide evidence that students are being indoctrinated, an idea that got pushback from a few committee members.
Robinson stepped forward when Sen. Don Davis (D-Greene) asked about specific cases of indoctrination.
Robinson said he heard from a parent whose child was told by his teacher that he couldn’t do a project on Robinson for Black History Month. The teacher gave the student another Black person to research.
“When we’re talking about indoctrination in this bill, we’re talking about students being compelled to go along with things that they blatantly don’t believe in,” Robinson said.
He laid out a scenario in which two young boys of different races drift apart because of what they learned in school.
“As the teacher continues to push a narrative, you slowly see your friend in a different light, not because of anything you did or they did, but because of something that was forced on you in a classroom,” Robinson said.
Berger said that parents across the state have been going to school board meetings airing their concerns about critical race theory, an academic concept that has become a political lightning rod. Developed by legal scholars in the 1970s, critical race theory acknowledges that racism is embedded within systems and institutions, such as the legal system, according to one definition from the American Bar Association.
Critical race theory has not been a big topic of discussion in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education meetings.
In June, one man talked about it briefly during the public comment period, and in the meeting before that, the district’s social studies team defined critical race theory and said it was not a curriculum.
Board member Alex Bohannon said he studied critical race theory.
“Critical race theory is not, in and of itself, a course or part of a curriculum. It’s a practice. It’s not something you see in curriculum,” Bohannon said.
Effie McMillian, the district’s executive director of equity, access and acceleration, confirmed Bohannon’s sentiment.
“It’s not a packaged program,” she said.
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) said the bill amounts to censorship in the classroom.
“This bill is founded on the unfounded fear of critical race theory,” he said.
The education committee took no action on the revised bill. Berger said it will likely come up for a vote in 10 days or so.
Gov. Roy Cooper is likely to veto the bill.