Last Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill that would prohibit critical race theory from being taught in public schools.
“The legislature should be focused on supporting teachers, helping students recover lost learning, and investing in our public schools,” Gov. Cooper said in a press release. “Instead, this bill pushes calculated, conspiracy-laden politics into public education."
House Bill 324
The text of House Bill 324 said it was created with the intent that students, teachers, administrators and other school faculty recognize the equality and rights of everyone and to prevent public schools from teaching certain concepts that may go against that intent.
Concepts the bill said should not be promoted include:
- one race or sex being superior to another,
- an individual is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive based on their race or sex,
- and that the United States was created by members of one race or sex with the intent of oppressing members of another race or sex.
The bill also mentioned that public school units should notify the state's Department of Public Instruction and list information on the school’s website at least 30 days before any of these concepts were included in curricula, workshops and trainings, or before hiring speakers, consultants and diversity trainers to discuss such concepts.
Theodore M. Shaw, a professor of law at UNC and director of the Center for Civil Rights, said critical race theory is not intended to be taught to school children or to make them feel guilty for actions of people in the past.
“It isn’t about teaching elementary school children to either be racist or ashamed of what they are — they shouldn’t be taught that,” Shaw said. “On the other hand, they should be taught history in a more full and honest way. But that’s history, that’s not critical race theory.”
Shaw added that CRT is being turned into a political debate and is being treated like the subject of history, when it should be treated as a legal theory.
“Don’t appropriate a law school curriculum set of issues and use that to say that’s what children have be taught when you’re distorting what critical race theory is,” Shaw said.
A partisan issue
H.B. 324 was a partisan issue in the General Assembly — all voting Republicans in both chambers approved the bill, while all voting Democrats opposed it. The bill was then sent to Gov. Cooper on Sept. 3, and he vetoed it a week later.
Chris Cooper, political science professor and director of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University, said in an email statement that Gov. Cooper’s veto of the bill was not surprising, and his use of the veto pen during this session has been both frequent and effective.
“The so-called ‘critical race theory bill’ was supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats in North Carolina, as similar bills have been throughout the country,” Cooper said. “If (Gov.) Cooper had signed the bill, it would have been a shock — the kind of shock that would have reverberated not just in N.C., but throughout the country.”
Chantal Stevens, executive director of the North Carolina ACLU, said in a statement that the organization appreciated the governor’s prioritization of students’ education with the veto.
But she also said this bill’s advancement through the legislature shows that lawmakers are responding to racial injustice and inequity by creating legislation that censors history.
“We urge lawmakers to uphold the Governor’s veto and protect students’ rights to inclusive education and teachers’ rights to do their jobs thoughtfully,” Stevens said in the statement.
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