Tennessee aims to levy fines starting at $1 million and rising to $5 million on school districts each time one of their teachers is found to have “knowingly violated” state restrictions on classroom discussions about systemic racism, white privilege, and sexism, according to guidance proposed by the state’s department of education late last week.
Teachers could also be disciplined or lose their licenses for teaching that the United States is inherently racist or sexist or making a student feel “guilt or anguish” because of past actions committed by their race or sex.
The guidance received immediate backlash from advocates of students of color in the state who say it would have a disproportionate impact on already underfunded, majority Black and Latino school districts.
“There’s also a fear for young students of color who are in districts that are majority white and now there’s no protection for them and their white student peers in learning about truthful history and racism,” said Cardell Orrin, the executive director of Stand for Children Tennessee, a group that advocates for historically disenfranchised students.
The new guidance lays out the complaint process that a current student, parent, or employee can initiate against a district if they believe an educator has violated the law, but it does not elaborate on what specifically school districts are banned from teaching, as many teacher advocates had hoped. Instead, it cites 11 broad concepts that teachers can’t teach or use materials to promote. For example, students can’t be told that they are “inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously,” or bear responsibility for past actions committed by members of their race or sex. Experts have called the language of these laws vague.
Tennessee’s department of education will allow the public to weigh in on the rules until Wednesday, Aug. 11, according to the Tennessean.
Tennessee is one of 11 states this year that have drastically curtailed the ways that districts can fight systemic and individual acts of racism, homophobia, and sexism in the classroom and how teachers can talk to students about the ways America’s government has historically discriminated against minorities. Another 16 states have similar bills that are set to be considered during next year’s legislative session.
Advocates of the bills argue that public school districts are indoctrinating students with teachers’ political agendas and, through their equity initiatives, giving students of color an unfair advantage over white students.
Opponents of the bills argue that school districts can no longer ignore longstanding academic disparities between white students and students of color and are obligated to teach all students a more complete and nuanced version of America’s racist past.
In most instances, the laws spell out which anti-racist initiatives districts are no longer allowed to practice and what “divisive” concepts teachers are no longer allowed to discuss, but state legislatures left room for state departments of education to determine how to enforce the laws.
Naked hatred will be on a Kansas election ballot Tuesday.
Josh Wells, a Hutchinson-area man with Proud Boys and other alleged right-wing extremist ties, is nostalgic for the good old days when the U.S. was a “pro-white country with a protected white majority.” He’s running for the Haven USD 312 Board of Education.
A group calling itself the Midwest Youth Liberation Front unearthed Wells’ avowed longing to establish a “white nationalism and or a pro-Western Christian theocracy with a protected white majority status. Whichever one is more obtainable.” Because “every race deserves a homeland.”
“Wells’ admitted goal of his new Midwest Nationalist Party is to establish a white ethno-state,” the liberation front wrote on Twitter. “Wells openly praises the death of Black people, spreads Nazi Germany symbolism, and thinks non-White people don’t belong in America.”
It’s another hot, sleepy August election. Turnout is always low. But “you wouldn’t want somebody with that mix of hate and anger and misinformation preferably in any kind of leadership, let alone on a school board,” says state Sen. Cindy Holscher, Democrat of Overland Park, who has been monitoring political races for extremism, especially in school board elections. “I suspect there are more individuals like this person, maybe not quite as vocal. And that’s concerning.”
The white supremacist terrorists are openly running for school boards, folks. Get involved or they will win.