N.C. Republicans push bill to limit teaching of race, racism

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Republicans are quickly advancing a last-minute proposal that would prevent public schools from promoting several concepts about race and racism.

A bill originally seeking to clarify reopening guidance for charter schools was substituted during an education committee Tuesday with a new plan to bar schools from teaching ideas that Republicans say are “contrary to the equality and rights of all persons.” The bill comes as lawmakers in a number of states this year have debated how and whether systemic racism should be taught in public schools.

The bill would, among other things, ban public schools from endorsing the view that one race or sex is better than another or that an individual’s race or sex makes them inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, even if not consciously. The proposal also seeks to prohibit teachers from telling students that the United States was created by members of a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex.

Rep. John Torbett, a Gaston County Republican who chairs the education committee, said House Bill 324 is about promoting equality, not rewriting history.

“It ensures equity,” Torbett said in the afternoon hearing. “It ensures that all people in society are equitable. It has no mention of history.”

The development is likely to exacerbate tensions between Democrats and Republicans who have different views about how pupils should learn about history inside the classroom.

“This is a bill of hatred,” said Rep. James Gailliard, a Nash County Democrat. “This is a bill of classism. This is a bill of privilege. This is a bill of fragility. It has no place in the North Carolina General Assembly.”

Gailliard strongly opposes the measure that faces a Thursday deadline in order to be considered during the remainder of the two-year legislative session.

“This is really a ‘Don’t hurt my feelings bill. Don’t tell me the truth about our history because it may hurt my feelings,’” Gailliard told his colleagues. “We’re robbing kids if we don’t give them the opportunity to study and to really learn their history. By not teaching them their history, we’re not showing them that injustice can be made into justice.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, a Republican, supports the proposal to suppress the promotion of such ideas.

“This is a common-sense bill that provides reasonable expectations for the kind of civil discourse we want our children to experience in public schools,” she said in a statement released by House Speaker Tim Moore’s office promoting the measure, adding that “there is no room for divisive rhetoric that condones preferential treatment of any one group over another.”

If approved by the chamber’s rules committee, the bill would make its way to the House floor. Republican leaders who control both chambers are considering scores of bills before Thursday’s “crossover deadline.” Policy bills that don’t pass at least one chamber by the deadline otherwise face long odds to be considered again before 2023.


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Anderson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.