A so-called Parental Rights Bill was passed by a state Senate committee on Monday, while another controversial bill banning the promotion of “dividing concepts” in public schools or college classrooms is scheduled for another hearing.
Senate Bill 449, sponsored by Republican Buford Sen. Clint Dixon, a Gov. Brian Kemp frontrunner, outlines rights for Georgian parents of public school children, including the right to review all materials instructional material used in a child’s classroom.
“It’s a parent’s bill of rights. This is simply a transparency bill, which gives parents the fundamental right under state law, which currently does not exist, to review material that their children and students learn before each nine-week period.
Sen. Greg Dolezal, a Cumming Republican, said the bill standardizes a process that can vary from district to district, leaving parents frustrated and unable to influence what their children learn.
“I think if we agreed, which I think we might all agree, that it’s a good process, that parents can see what curriculum is being taught to their children, then we would want that to make part of state law,” he said. “And we wouldn’t want that to be something that could be arbitrarily changed by a board without the oversight of the General Assembly and ultimately the governor as well.”
American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia executive director Andrea Young said the bill was unnecessary and encouraged political bickering in classrooms. Young said a resentful parent could upend a teacher’s entire carefully planned lesson plan with a single complaint.
“We need to help our children catch up after a school year disrupted by the pandemic, not turn our schools into battlegrounds,” she said. “Allowing parents to object en masse to classroom content will contribute to a climate of censorship in the classroom. The exam period burdens teachers, the bills use vague language and they are unnecessary because parents are already involved in setting educational standards and goals.
Georgia Association of Educators President Lisa Morgan said the bill would hamper teachers’ ability to change lesson plans on the fly if one approach isn’t working for a particular class.
Teachers welcome parent involvement through means such as email, conferences, classroom volunteer opportunities and PTA meetings, but the proposed legislation would only strain the parent-teacher relationship, a she declared.
“Teachers feel attacked,” she said. “And more than that, this bill seems to drive a wedge between the most important partnership in education, and that is between parents and teachers. This bill makes that relationship adversarial, rather than the partnership it should be.
The bill and others like it come as parents across the country rally against so-called critical race theory. Once a niche academic term defining racism as a problem stemming from the structure of society rather than individual vice, the term has come to be used for lessons that critics say make white students feel judged or blamed for the sins of America’s racial history.
A bill to teach “dividing concepts” in K-12 and middle school classrooms was heard by the same committee on Monday, although it was not scheduled for a vote.
The bill states that schools and colleges “may not teach, act on, promote or encourage divisive concepts,” including the superiority of any race, racial determinism of guilt or moral character, that “ the United States of America and the State of Georgia are fundamentally or systemically racist”, or that “meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or were created by individuals of a particular race to oppress individuals of another race.
Educators are permitted to answer specific questions on controversial topics without approval.
Sen. Bo Hatchett, a Republican from Cornelia, said the bill does not prevent teachers from teaching the less savory parts of American history.
“I vividly remember learning about slavery, segregation, the KKK,” he said. “These are some of the most memorable days of learning from a student’s experiences, among other telling historical moments like the Holocaust. These are the days when students learn how deeply flawed people can be and how even our government can be. I am one of those who will tell you that these lessons are not only valuable. They are imperative.
“Our incredible teachers across this state teach these lessons so eloquently, so memorably, while interweaving these hard-hitting truths, with the progress, triumphs and sacrifices made along the way that give us hope. for our country and allow us to still believe that we should collectively be proud to be Americans and proud to be Georgians,” he added. “I believe that each of us in this room today understands our history and how it has shaped our present without learning that we inherit these burdens.”
Georgia Association of Educational Leaders President Robert Costley said his organization takes no position on the substance of the bill, but teachers are concerned that as students become more curious than ever about the critical theory of race and race history in the United States due to the current national discussion, the bill could open them up to more scrutiny to answer their questions.
“They’re so often asked for their opinion because it’s about concepts, of ‘Hey, did you deal with this when you were my age? “, He said. “What we don’t want is for the Georgia teaching staff to say to this, ‘Look, I’m not really supposed to talk about this because I might open myself up to a complaint. And that’s what, even though our members may feel different, individually, that’s what they’re most afraid of.
Costley said the language used to address parents’ complaints may be too vague. For example, if a principal responds to a concern by talking to the teacher, but the parent wants the teacher fired, it’s unclear if the parent can escalate the situation to the school board. -he declares.
“Once a bill like this is passed, there will be more complaints, formalized complaints,” he said. “We want to make sure teachers don’t have to worry about unfounded concerns or misunderstandings about what CRT may or may not be.” And they’ll get complaints about them, and if you know the average teacher, if they just have a mom that’s mad at them, it’s going to scare them, it’s going to make them think all night.
Monday’s meeting ended with several names still on the list for public comment on the bill. The committee’s chairman, Dalton Republican Senator Chuck Payne, said the meeting had to end for the sake of time, but the discussion will continue.
“We’re going to take our time with this, and if you haven’t been called today, I encourage you to come back to the next one, we’ll have the opportunity, I’m sure, in the future, d ‘to have continued public input,’ he said.