House Bill 187, meant to prohibit teachers from promoting or teaching about race and sex in certain contexts in North Carolina public schools, was filed by North Carolina House Republicans on Feb. 23.
Its introduction follows similar efforts by Republicans to combat the teaching of subjects such as critical race theory in other states like Florida and Tennessee. The bill itself is a revival of a similar one that was proposed in 2021, which was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
"The legislature should be focused on supporting teachers, helping students recover lost learning, and investing in our public schools," Cooper said in the 2021 veto. "Instead, this bill pushes calculated, conspiracy-laden politics into public education."
The bill's primary sponsors are N.C. Reps. John Torbett (R-Gaston), Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke), David Willis (R-Union) and Diane Wheatley (R-Cumberland).
None of the 16 Republican sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill were available to comment by the time of publication.
Some teachers and students don't agree with the provisions laid out in the bill.
If she taught high schoolers, Katherine Turk, a women's and gender studies associate professor at UNC, said it would be impossible for her to accurately teach students about historical events in U.S. history while following the bill’s guidelines.
She also said she disagrees with the language used by representatives who say teaching students about inequities between groups in the United States will "indoctrinate" them into certain beliefs.
“Education is not about indoctrination,” she said. “It's not about memorizing names and dates and facts. It's about thinking about the past and all of this complexity, engaging lots of different perspectives and engaging evidence and analyzing it.”
Part of the bill's goal is to prevent students from feeling distressed or uncomfortable about the topics being taught in class "by virtue of (their) race or sex."
Gianna Werner, a student at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, said she believes students shouldn’t be made extremely uncomfortable by content taught in schools, but these topics should be taught so students can make informed decisions based on facts rather than on what parents or teachers tell them.
“I think a lot of things in history can be uncomfortable or startling to learn about. But I feel, personally, that it is important to learn about these things because it is something that happened in the past, and as sad as it is, I feel like it's just something you need to learn in order to to have your own opinion on it,” she said.
While Werner said she thinks topics like the ones listed in the bill should be taught on a purely factual basis without the teacher’s opinion. She also said the controversy surrounding topics like critical race theory stems from a concern that the information students are taught is biased.
Haley Dunnigan, a student in the UNC School of Education who is taking classes on educational policy, said banning the discussion of topics like these fosters ignorance and keeps people from understanding the people around them.
She said such a ban could potentially erase parts of history and prevent people from criticizing and improving upon social institutions in the United States.
“We're reading books that are banned because of stuff like (critical race theory). And so it's just sad to me that there's even discussion around stuff like that being banned because it's quite literally people's experiences and you're silencing that,” she said.
To Turk, protecting teachers’ ability to teach about these subjects is essential to providing students with a holistic and accurate history of the United States.
“Excluding certain topics or distorting that historical record is not a way of respecting our students,” Turk said. “Our students deserve to understand our history and all of its complexity.”
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