by Dave Williams | Capitol Beat News Service
ATLANTA – The Republican-controlled Georgia Senate passed controversial legislation Friday prohibiting the teaching of a series of “divisive concepts” on race in the state’s public schools over the objections of Democrats.
The bill, which passed 34-20 along party lines, lists nine concepts teachers could not teach, including that the United States and Georgia are systematically racist and that no race is inherently superior or inferior to any other.
The measure requires local school boards to adopt a process allowing parents to file a complaint to their child’s school if they believe the law has been violated. Parents not satisfied with the response could appeal to the school district’s superintendent, the local school board and – if still not satisfied – to the state Board of Education.
Nothing in the bill would prohibit the teaching of slavery, racial segregation or the Holocaust, said Sen. Bo Hatchett, R-Cornelia, the legislation’s chief sponsor.
“What this bill says is a teacher should not tell a child that because of their race, ethnicity or skin color, they should feel guilty, that it’s their fault,” he said.
Senate Democrats argued the bill is unnecessary because racist concepts are not being taught in Georgia schools.
“What is it we’re trying to stop?” asked Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta. “Do we have a problem we’re not solving?”
Hatchett responded that the divisive concepts listed in the bill would not be taught by “99.9%” of Georgia teachers.
“But 0.1% of the population believes these divisive concepts are true and need to be taught,” he said.
Other opponents said the bill would discourage teachers from addressing racism in their teaching of history for fear of drawing complaints from parents.
“We should not be sending a message that we don’t trust teachers when we are already facing a massive shortage of teachers,” said Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Sasser.
“Let’s not pit parents against teachers,” added Sen. Sonya Halpern,” D-Atlanta. “Whoever heard of reprimanding teachers for teaching our children?”
Senators approved an amendment proposed by Halpern removing the attorney general and local district attorneys from considering appeals from parents not satisfied with the way school officials handled their complaint.
“How we teach our kids is not a criminal justice issue,” she said.
The Senate also removed a provision from the original bill that would have extended its provisions to University System of Georgia students and professors.
The bill now moves to the state House of Representatives, which passed similar legislation last week.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.