MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — A North Carolina bill restricting how teachers talk about race and gender in schools passed the state House and now heads to the state Senate.
The bill would ban teachers from compelling students to agree to things like "the United States was created by men whose purpose was to oppress women or Black people" and that "a male is inherently sexist because of his gender."
House Bill 187, sponsored by Gaston county Representative John Torbett, mirrors a bill vetoed two years ago by Gov. Roy Cooper.
"House Bill 187 demonstrates the General Assembly intent that students, teachers, administrators, and other school employees recognize the equality and rights of all persons," Torbett said.
There are no penalties listed in the bill, which its critics point out, and opposing lawmakers say it would stop the open discussion at schools about facts in American history.
Under HB187, teachers would have to walk a tight line on how they discuss 13 concepts related to race and gender. Under the bill, public schools can't promote:
- One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.
- An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive.
- An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.
- An individual's moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex.
- An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.
- Any individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress.
- A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist.
- The United States was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex.
- The United States government should be violently overthrown.
- Particular character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs should be ascribed to a race or sex or to an individual because of the individual's race or sex.
- The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups.
- All Americans are not created equal and are not endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- Governments should deny to any person within the government's jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.
"House Bill 187 is destructive to our school learning environment, it is a distraction from the real issues that our public schools face and the issues that families with school-aged children need to be addressed," Rep. Julie von Haefen, a Democrat from Wake County, said.
Democrats have called the bill an attempt to align North Carolina with legislation coming out of Florida by Republicans fighting against so-called critical race theory (CRT) being taught in schools.
The bill does not mention CRT by name.
"This great education state must have an educational system that unites and teaches our children, not divide and indoctrinate," Torbett said about the bill.
The bill would also ban teachers from persuading students someone’s race or gender makes them responsible for past acts like slavery or denying women the right to vote.
"There is doubt about whether today's teachers can have the same discussion about women's struggle for equal rights, the right to vote and the reasons why women are underrepresented in politics and in other fields," Von Haefen said.
Torbett said the bill wouldn’t change what parts of history can be taught in schools.
"It prevents discriminatory concepts from being taught as fact or endorsed in North Carolina school districts," Torbett said.
The bill also has a line that prevents students from feeling discomfort, guilt, or anguish because of their race or gender while discussing subjects in school
Representative Kelly Alexander, a Democrat from Mecklenburg county, said history is uncomfortable.
"When you found out that in the middle passage, where about 12 million Africans were taken from Africa, about two and a half million of them would rather have died than to arrive in the Caribbean or to the eastern shores of what has become the United States," Alexander said.
The bill passed 68-49 to move to the Senate.
The bill also would require schools to tell the NC Department of Public Instruction when they have a speaker who comes to a school that talks about the subjects outlined in the bill.
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