The Alabama Senate Governmental Affairs Committee gave a favorable report to legislation that would ban instruction in divisive concepts in Alabama’s K-12 schools.
House Bill 312 (HB312) is sponsored by State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville). It is being carried in the Alabama Senate by State Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Montgomery), who sponsored the Senate version, Senate Bill 292 (SB292).
The bill lists a number of divisive concepts that it orders teachers not to teach in Alabama public schools. Opponents of the legislation expressed concerns that passage would lead to a fear to tell the complete story of Alabama history, including slavery, segregation and racism. Barfoot assured the committee that that was not the case.
“I get my love of history from my mother, who was a history teacher,” Barfoot said. “We must tell the good, the bad, and the ugly of history.”
The bill defines as divisive any concept that teaches inherent superiority, inherent racism or sexism, discrimination based on race, or responsibility, blame and guilt for actions committed by others within the same race, sex, or religion, among other concepts.
“These are all things that we all agree, or should agree, that we should not be teaching our children,” Barfoot said. “It is important that we set this as a standard and make certain that we do not teach them.”
Educators claim that none of these principles are being taught in Alabama schools.
“They have assured us they are not teaching this, but they have assured us they are not teaching Common Core either, so I don’t put great stock in this,” said State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Madison).
State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) said, “My children have come home in tears because of the things that they have been pushing at school. That has happened.”
This legislation began as a bill banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) but was later broadened to ban divisive concepts.
“The [phrase] Critical Race Theory is not in the bill,” Barfoot said.
Gubernatorial candidate State Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier (D-Selma) said that there is nothing in the bill that she disagrees with but asked that the committee not vote the bill out of committee because of the fear that it has created in the community.
“It is the fear of having your great-grandmama lynched,” Sanders-Fortier said. “How do we address this from a place of love?
“We don’t want this taught in school,” Sanders-Fortier said. “I really wish that Christians could come forward with something issued from love to address issues of race.”
Prior to the vote, the committee heard from activists on both sides of the issue in a public hearing.
Tyler Thrasher spoke in favor of the bill.
“I am a father from Mountain Brook. I have two children,” Thrasher said.
Thrasher recounted how the Mountain Brook school system had attempted to force a curriculum on the students by the Anti-Defamation League, “No place for hate.”
“That sounded good on the surface, but when you really start digging down into the material and see the reading lists they recommend, you learn that, basically, they seek to indoctrinate our children to become social justice activists,” Thrasher said. “Any CRT/SEL, we need to keep it out of the schools because it is only teaching our children to hate, not the opposite.”
Rayford Mack is the NAACP Executive member at large. He spoke against the bill.
“Slavery and the civil rights movement are part of Alabama history,” Mack said. “The vagueness of HB312 and SB292 will cause teachers to eliminate discussions about the reality of racism. The implementation of this bill may look different from city to city and county to county. Teachers who fear that someone might get offended may completely abandon these topics.”
Lisa McNair, whose sister was killed in the 1960s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), spoke against the bill.
“I feel that that bill will discourage teachers from teaching the story of my sister Denise McNair,” McNair said. “They are the true stories of American history. That is also our shared American history.”
Joe Kahn is an attorney for an association that defends academic freedom on university campuses.
“I am entirely neutral on K-12,” Kahn said, but he wanted to ensure higher education is not impacted by the legislation.
A spokeswoman for A+ education warned that passing this could result in more teachers quitting and leaving the profession as well as the loss of federal funding for Alabama schools.
The committee voted to give HB312 a favorable report. This means that the full Senate could vote on HB312 as soon as Wednesday. The Senate has already passed SB292; and it is now in the House, advanced by the House committee. Both divisive concept bills are in position for passage if either House puts it on the special-order calendar for a vote before time runs out on the 2022 Alabama Regular Session.
Wednesday will be day 28 of the session. There are at most 3 days left in the 2022 regular session.
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