The Pulse

Durham school board resolution pushes back against GOP education culture war agenda

By: - March 10, 2023 6:45 am

The Durham County Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution urging the General Assembly to vote ‘No’ on a controversial bill to restrict what educators can teacher about American history comes before lawmakers.

Filed by Republicans last month, House Bill 187 would prevent educators from promoting Critical Race Theory (CRT) and what many conservatives pejoratively describe as wokeness. The bill contains many of the elements in a bill filed by Republicans in 2021 that Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed.

CRT is an academic discipline that examines how racism has shaped the nation’s legal and social systems. Educators say CRT is not taught in America’s K-12 schools.

Durham activist Paul Scott said school boards across the state must adopt resolutions opposing the bill.

Scott called HB 187 a “linchpin to help hold segregation together.”

“In this case, silence is content,” Scott said. “We have to stand up against this bill not only locally but statewide and also [stand against] these attempts to crush the rights of our children nationally.”

School board Member Alexandra Valladares said the board cannot lose sight of such attacks on public education.

“There’s definitely attacks on the education of our students, things that attack the dignity of our families, things that attack the dignity of history itself and the veracity of history itself,” Valladares said.

Because HB 187 would prohibit educators from teaching that the United States was created by a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race, educators couldn’t debate or considering teaching students about the Jim Crow era when laws made it illegal for African Americans to vote or hold office, the school board contends.

And because the bill would prevent educators from teaching that the United State was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing member of another race or sex, educators couldn’t debate or consider teaching students that women could not vote until 1920 after passage of the 19th Amendment.

“And even then, African American and indigenous women were still routinely denied their voting rights,” the resolution states.

Instead of restricting what students can learn, the Durham school board asked lawmakers to take action to make schools more inclusive places for students by addressing statewide equity concerns that include:

  • Funding dedicated Equity Directors for every local education authority (LEA) to develop and share best practices statewide.
  • Adopting a comprehensive, anti-racist, and inclusive curriculum for every school.
  • Funding professional development that includes diversity, equity, social emotional learning, inclusion, culturally competency, and anti-racist training.
  • Expanding the NC Teaching Fellows Program, especially at HBCUs, and increase representation of teachers of color.
  • Supporting all students, families, and staff including people of color, LGBTQIA+ students and staff, students with exceptional needs, immigrant students and families, and people experiencing homelessness and poverty.
  • Expanding Title IX protections to protect students against sexual assault.

The House Committee on Education K-12 is scheduled to discuss HB 187 when it meets next Tuesday.

As Policy Watch previously reported, HB 187 has much of the same language as House Bill 324, the bill Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed.It would, for example, prohibit teachers from promoting concepts that suggest America is racist or that people are inherently racist or sexist. It would also prohibit teaching that whites or anyone else are responsible for the sins of their forefathers.

If passed into law, HB 187 would also prevent educators from teaching that 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.”

“Use public schools to build a brighter future, not to bully and marginalize LGBTQ students,” Gov. Roy Cooper said during his State of the State 2023 address this week. “Don’t make teachers re-write history.”

The Democratic governor reminded lawmakers that keeping North Carolina out of “culture wars” the past six years has been good for business.

“We worked together in a bipartisan way to fully repeal the horrible bathroom bill the first year I took office,” Cooper said. “And as we look to the future, I challenge this General Assembly to keep us off the front lines of those culture wars that hurt people and cost us jobs so we can continue our successful bipartisan work.”

The “bathroom bill” to which Cooper referred prevented transgender people from using bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity. The bill caused several major corporations to scuttle expansion plans in North Carolina and major artists boycotted the state or donated portions of their ticket sales to LGBTQ organizations.

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Greg Childress
Greg Childress

Education Reporter Greg Childress covers all aspects of public education in North Carolina, including debates over school funding, curricula, privatization, and teacher pay and licensing.