Mar 14, 2022 - News

Bill banning "divisive concepts" in schools passes Georgia Senate

Illustration of a book wrapped in caution tape

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Georgia House is poised to take up the controversial legislation supporters say will prohibit the discussion of “divisive concepts” in elementary, middle and high school classrooms.

Why it matters: The legislation would ban educators from teaching students that one race is superior to another; that a person is a victim or oppressor because of their race; that one person bears responsibility for things done by people of the same race in the past; and that the United States is “fundamentally or systemically racist.”

  • Senate Bill 377 passed the Senate Friday, meeting the Crossover Day deadline.

The big picture: Critics argue the bill would make it harder for teachers to thoroughly educate students about such historic events in the United States as the enslavement of Africans, genocide of Native Americans and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

What they’re saying: The bill’s chief sponsor, Republican Sen. Bo Hatchett, said he understands history and lessons about racial discrimination can be hard and uncomfortable to learn about.

  • “They are children, and we can teach these hard lessons, but at the end of the day…a teacher should not tell a child that because of their race, skin color or ethnicity, that they should feel guilty, that it is their fault,” he said.

The other side: Democratic Sen. Kim Jackson said the legislation is a "censorship bill" that will make it hard for educators to teach not only about racist acts in the past, but current systemic inequities that point to higher incarceration and maternal death rates for Black and other people of color.

  • "This bill…will be become in and of itself a prime example of systemic racism that is being enacted before our very eyes, not in the past, but now," she said.
  • Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, another Democrat, said the legislation sends a message to teachers that lawmakers don’t trust them.
  • “Vague bans create fear among educators and will lead to more of them leaving the field or deciding not to go into education at all,” she said.

What we’re watching: Senate Bill 377 will most likely be debated in the coming days or weeks in the Georgia House.


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