NATIONAL NEWS

North Carolina House passes bill limiting racial teachings

Mar 22, 2023, 3:15 PM

North Carolina Rep. Rosa Gill, a Wake County Democrat, speaks against a bill that would limit how r...

North Carolina Rep. Rosa Gill, a Wake County Democrat, speaks against a bill that would limit how racial topics are discussed in schools Wednesday, March 22, 2023, on the House floor in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s Republican-controlled House passed a previously vetoed proposal Wednesday to restrict how teachers can critical race theory.”

The House voted 68-49 along party lines for legislation banning public school teachers from compelling students to believe they should feel guilty or responsible for past actions committed by people of the same race or sex.

United in their opposition, House Democrats challenged Republican claims that the bill would reduce discrimination and argued that a comprehensive history education should make students uncomfortable.

Republican seat gains in the midterm elections give them greater leverage this year to override any veto by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who successfully blocked a similar proposal in 2021 and urged legislators this month in his State of the State address, “Don’t make teachers re-write history.” But Republicans, who are one seat short in the House of a veto-proof supermajority, will likely need some Democratic support for the measure to become law.

North Carolina is among 10 states currently considering such proposals, according to an Education Week analysis. Eighteen others have already limited how teachers can discuss racism and sexism in the classroom.

Gaston County Republican Rep. John Torbett said the proposal, which now heads to the Senate, will prohibit schools from endorsing controversial concepts, including that one race or sex is inherently superior.

“This great education state must have an educational system that unites and teaches our children, not divides and indoctrinates them,” said Torbett, the bill’s sponsor.

Several Democrats, including Reps. Rosa Gill of Wake County and Laura Budd of Mecklenburg County, raised concerns that the language is vague and does not outline clear boundaries for teachers. Budd said this “massive failure” places unnecessary pressure on teachers who may feel like they need to stifle productive classroom discussions to keep their jobs.

“The bill, on its face, is the obvious attempt to micromanage from the General Assembly into the classrooms,” she said during floor debate. “It’s overreach and will have a chilling effect on teachers and educators in curtailing what they think they’re allowed to teach.”

Republican lawmakers in committee had applauded the measure for “banning” critical race theory, a complex academic and legal framework that centers on the idea that racism is embedded in the nation’s systems and institutions that perpetuate inequality.

The bill does not explicitly mention the framework, but it prohibits teaching that the government is “inherently racist” or was created to oppress people of another race or sex. Its language mirrors a model proposal from Citizens for Renewing America, a conservative social welfare group founded by a former Trump administration official to rid the nation’s schools of critical race theory.

Republicans nationwide have spun the phrase into a catchall for racial topics related to systemic inequality, inherent bias and white privilege. While many K-12 public schools teach about slavery and its aftermath, education officials have found little to no evidence that critical race theory, by definition, is being taught.

North Carolina schools would also be required under the bill to notify the state’s Department of Public Instruction and publish information online at least a month before they plan to host a diversity trainer or a guest speaker who has previously advocated for the beliefs restricted by the legislation.

Cary mother and activist Michelle O’Keefe was among several parents who testified against the bill in a Tuesday committee meeting. O’Keefe said she doesn’t want her young child sheltered from learning about racism and other atrocities in history, as long as those lessons are age-appropriate.

“The best way to keep history from repeating itself,” she said, “is to know the history.”

Another mother worried she could be banned from speaking at her child’s school career day because she has a documented history of speaking out against social injustices. Democratic Rep. Julie von Haefen of Wake County expressed a similar concern that she might no longer be able to substitute teach because of her record on racial justice issues and gender equality.

___

Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

National News

Associated Press

The Treasury Department warns that an anti-woke Florida banking law is a national security risk

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department is warning that state laws that restrict banks from considering environmental, social and governance factors could harm efforts to address money laundering and terrorism financing. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter sent Thursday to lawmakers. The letter singled out a law signed by Florida Gov. Ron […]

21 minutes ago

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands listening to the verdict in a glass cage of a ...

Associated Press

Long before his arrest, US reporter lamented that many friends in Russia were being locked up

In early 2022, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich wrote on social media that “reporting on Russia is now also a regular practice of watching people you know get locked away for years.” A year later, he was the one locked up — arrested in March 2023 on charges of spying that his employer and […]

28 minutes ago

Associated Press

Accused of biting police official, NYC Council member says police were the aggressors

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City Council member accused of biting a police official complained Thursday that officers used excessive force as she strove to help someone who was lying under a barricade at a protest. Brooklyn Democrat Susan Zhuang didn’t address the biting allegation as she gave her version of the encounter, […]

34 minutes ago

FILE - In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, Aviation Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Nicholas Hawkin...

Associated Press

Massachusetts lawmakers call on the Pentagon to ground the Osprey again until crash causes are fixed

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three Massachusetts lawmakers are pressing Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to ground the V-22 Osprey aircraft again until the military can identify the root causes of multiple recent accidents, including a deadly crash in Japan. In a letter sent to Austin on Thursday, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Rep. Richard […]

37 minutes ago

Associated Press

2024 Election Latest: Biden campaign faces crucial moment, Republicans laud Trump’s RNC performance

President Joe Biden is facing the stark reality that many Democrats at the highest levels want him to consider how stepping aside from the 2024 election to make way for a new nominee atop the ticket could be the party’s best chance of preventing widespread losses in November. It’s a pivotal few days for the […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Republicans emerge from their convention thrilled with Trump and talking about a blowout victory

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The last time Republicans gathered for a full convention, they were plagued by internal division and fear. Morale was near rock bottom. And the party’s presidential nominee showed little desire, or capacity, to add new voters to his political coalition. What a difference eight years make. The Republican officials, strategists and activists […]

2 hours ago

North Carolina House passes bill limiting racial teachings