Dems decry passage of anti-CRT bill in N.C. House

House Bill 187, titled "Equality in Education," prohibits educators from teaching "white privilege," which is the idea that people of one race have unfair advantages.

Democrats in North Carolina oppose the passage of an anti-critical race theory bill they believe will deter teachers from bringing up controversial topics in class.

The North Carolina House Republicans passed House Bill 187, titled “Equality in Education,” on Wednesday, restricting how educators can teach racism and sexism. According to The Charlotte Observer, party lines prevailed in the 68-49 decision, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against. 

“The bill on its face is the obvious attempt to micromanage from the General Assembly into the classrooms,” Mecklenburg County Democratic Rep. Laura Budd said, according to The Observer. “It’s overreach. It will have a chilling effect on teachers and educators in curtailing what they think they’re allowed to teach, as well as how they teach.”

John Torbett sponsors North Carolina critical race theory bill
Gaston County Republican Rep. John Torbett (above) sponsored House Bill 187, which restricts how North Carolina educators can teach racism and sexism. The bill passed Wednesday on a 68-49 party-line vote, and Democrats are decrying that approval. (Photo: Screenshot/ House Republicans)

House Bill 187 states that public schools cannot promote ideas such as “one race or sex is inherently superior” or that a person, solely by their race or sex, is inherently sexist, racist or oppressive.

The legislation, which omits the term “critical race theory,” would mandate that schools announce online beforehand whenever they offer instruction relating to the forbidden ideas. They must also disclose if they employ diversity trainers, consultants, or lecturers with a history of promoting them.

The measure prohibits educators from teaching “white privilege,” the idea that people of one race have unfair advantages. According to the legislation, instructors cannot advocate that someone should receive privileges based on race or sexual orientation. 

GOP lawmakers claim the bill intends to stop schools from promoting critical race theory. 

Gaston County Republican Rep. John Torbett, the bill’s sponsor, contended that everyone should agree that no student, teacher, parent, school employee or anyone “should ever be made to feel inferior solely because of the color of their skin, their gender, national origin, race, religion, disability and familial status.”

The GOP lawmaker insisted the legislation “does not change what history standards can and cannot be taught,” but merely forbids schools from endorsing discriminatory concepts.

Democratic lawmakers, however, countered that the bill’s ambiguous language would cause teachers to censor their speech to avoid possible conflict. They also believe it doesn’t guide what would be acceptable. 

Rep. Julie von Haefen, a Democrat from Wake County, questioned whether the legislation would bar her from speaking in classrooms or filling in for teachers because of her political views. 

She said the measure makes teachers wonder if they can still talk to their students about equality, voting rights and the underrepresentation of women in politics and other professions. 

“At a time when teachers are already feeling pressure from staff shortages, book bans, inadequate resources, this bill continues to undermine the autonomy of the teaching profession,” von Haefen said during the floor debate, adding that House Bill 187 “fails to support teachers.”

School administrators have disputed conservative organizations’ accusations of spreading critical race theory rhetoric, contending the public has mistakenly misconstrued anything involving diversity, equity and race as CRT.

An Education Week analysis found that since January 2021, 44 states have proposed legislation or taken other actions restricting the teaching of critical race theory or how teachers can address racism and sexism. Eighteen of the states cemented prohibitions and limitations through law or other means.

Torbett claimed House Bill 187 would aid in fostering unity in both the nation and the state, especially at a time when learning should be fun and exciting for young children.

North Carolina “must have an educational system that unites and teaches our children,” said Torbett, according to The Observer, “not divides and indoctrinates them.”

The North Carolina House and Senate passed a bill in 2021 that had virtually identical language. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper explained his decision to veto that measure by maintaining it “pushes calculated, conspiracy-laden politics into public education.”

The bill now moves to the state’s Republican-controlled Senate, where it is anticipated to be approved with little difficulty. Should Cooper veto the measure as he did two years ago, to override him, Republicans would need at least one Democratic vote. 

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