Apr 28, 2022 - Politics

Kemp signs "divisive concepts" bill into law

Gov. Kemp
Gov. Brian Kemp signing bills at the Forsyth County Arts & Learning Center. Photo: Kristal Dixon/Axios

Flanked by family members, supporters and students, Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday signed into law several bills he says will put the responsibility of a child’s education back into the hands of parents.

Driving the news: Kemp signed two of his most controversial pieces of legislation: Parents’ Bill of Rights and legislation banning the teaching of “divisive concepts.”

  • He also gave his stamp of approval to bills that would remove obscene materials from school libraries and make local school board meetings more transparent.

Why it matters: These bills are designed to shore up Kemp’s base as he faces a May primary challenge from former Sen. David Perdue and a general election challenge in November from Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Kemp, who signed the bills at the Forsyth County Arts & Learning Center, said his bills put “students and parents first by keeping woke politics out of the classroom.”

  • “It ensures that all of our state and nation’s history is taught accurately because here in Georgia, our classrooms will not be pawns to those who indoctrinate our kids with their partisan agendas,” he said of the divisive concepts bill.

The other side: The Democratic Party of Georgia held a news conference after Kemp’s signing ceremony featuring parents in Forsyth County who pushed back against the governor’s assertions.

  • Angie Darnell, who has children in the Forsyth County School System, said Kemp’s “plan to control what’s taught in our schools could limit our kids’ opportunity to learn a complete and accurate history of our country.”
  • “Government interference in our classrooms is dangerous,” she said.
Dems presser
Forsyth County parent Angie Darnell criticizes Kemp's education bills at the Democratic Party of Georgia's news conference. Photo: Kristal Dixon/Axios

Context: Critical race theory, a college-level academic concept that explores how racism influences American society and how systemic inequities persist today, is not part of Georgia’s public education curriculum.

  • It’s become a hot topic among some conservatives who say it’s being used to make white students feel bad because of their race.

What they're saying: It’s no surprise to Charis Granger-Mbugua that the uproar over critical race theory and the resulting bills happened following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

The Cobb County parent and former teacher tells Axios that American progress on racial issues is cyclical: we all witness a tragedy that shakes the country’s moral core, and we start trying to understand the root of that problem.

  • Some begin to resist that progress and things either stagnate or move backward. Rinse and repeat.
  • “There are certain groups of people who are really uncomfortable with having these admittedly difficult conversations,” she said.

Anthony Downer, an Atlanta Public Schools teacher, tells Axios that the divisive concepts bill will make some educators hesitant to teach students about racism and historic events.

  • Downer also says it places a target on teachers who are already feeling burned out in a profession that’s constantly under the political microscope.
  • “This is a microcosm of how we treat and how we value teachers,” he said. “We are intentionally declining our public schools based on how we treat our teachers and students.”
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