ATLANTA — The Georgia Senate voted on Friday to approve a controversial bill that would prevent teachers from teaching what legislators call nine “divisive concepts,” including that the state or the country is “racist.”
Critics have said the bill is a form of censorship and it would be damaging for the state’s teachers. State Democratic senators worry that because teachers will be so scared of approaching topics like slavery or the civil rights movement, they will steer completely clear of teaching them.
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Channel 2′s Richard Elliot spoke to lawmakers on both sides of the issue about the bill. The language in the legislation states that topics such as saying one race is inherently superior to another, that one race is inherently racist or that the U.S. or the state of Georgia are racist, will be illegal.
State Senator Bo Hatchett from Cornelia wrote the bill and told Elliot that banning such concepts will not prevent teachers from exploring subjects like slavery or civil rights, as long as the discussions are in an academic setting.
“History lessons about slavery, all those can be taught,” Hatchett said. “What cannot be taught is after those lessons, telling a student that because of the color of their skin, they should feel guilty.”
State Senator Nikki Merritt from Grayson told Elliot she believes the legislation will scare teachers away from history lessons or anything that might run afoul of the legislation.
“If I were a teacher, I would feel fearful. I would feel like this was a witch hunt,” Merritt said. “We’re giving parents kind of free reign to go after teachers now.”
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Before the vote, senators debated for roughly two hours in their chamber. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan defended the bill.
“I can’t look at you and say you are inherently superior solely because the color of your skin,” Dugan said.
Democratic Senator Gloria Butler from DeKalb County, condemned it.
“The fear of disruption and punishment is likely to have a chilling effect on an open and honest discourse,” Butler said.
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The bill spells out a process where school districts can be penalized or punished if they don’t take action against complaints. It says those complaints can come from not only parents, but state lawmakers, district attorney’s or the state attorney general.
The Georgia Association of Educators has come out against the bill, which still needs approval from the House.
The concept of “Critical Race Theory” is currently a college level curriculum not taught in elementary, middle or high schools in the state of Georgia. The curriculum examines the ways in which race and racism influence American politics, culture and the law.
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