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BOE Should Vote Down ‘Divisive Concepts’ Policy

The Clarke County School Board will vote during its Aug. 12 meeting on proposed policy IKBB, entitled Divisive Concepts Complaint Resolution Process. Please, vote it down. Do not become complicit in the efforts of the Georgia Legislature to sanitize and whitewash a version of the past that undermines student understanding of the present.

While the specific purpose of IKBB is to outline how parents can report teachers who teach “divisive concepts” for administrative action, it pulls liberally from House Bill 1084, inappropriately named the “Protect Students First Act,” passed during the last legislative session. The proposed CCSD policy lists “divisive concepts” that cannot be taught, including “the United States of America is fundamentally racist.” It also prohibits “race scapegoating.” The latter is defined by the policy as “assigning fault or blame to a race, or to an individual of a particular race because of his or her race. Such term includes, but is not limited to, any claim that an individual or a particular race consciously and by virtue of his or her race, is inherently racist or is inherently inclined to oppress individuals of other races.”

While the proposed policy states that “the topics of slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation or racial discrimination” are not prohibited, how can such discussions be held without a teacher running the risk of being accused of “race scapegoating” and “race stereotyping.”

How, pray tell, can a government teacher discuss the historical context of Black disenfranchisement from voting and serving on juries without talking about the fundamental racism of governmental institutions? How can someone discuss the history of law enforcement and the development of our country’s jails and prisons without “assigning fault or blame to a race”?

What about the teaching of U.S. history? How can one explain the distinction between indentured servants and slaves who worked side-by-side in colonial history without referencing race? How can one discuss the three-fifths compromise and the motivations around it without acknowledging that a founding father was “by virtue of his or her race… inherently or consciously racist or oppressive toward individuals of other races.” And what of the basis of Black Codes prior to the Civil War and the Jim Crow laws following? What about the historical roots of current income and wealth gaps among various racial groupings?

If the state government wants an avenue for parents to file a complaint about “divisive concepts” being taught, let the state government establish the process on a state level. It is not the role of school boards to give mixed messages to their teaching staff.