State school board to consider ‘critical race theory’ ban in Georgia

    Students walk to class at Forsyth Central High School in August, 2020. The Georgia Board of Education is set to consider a proposal condemning the teaching of critical race theory in Georgia classrooms. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

    The Georgia Board of Education has scheduled a special called meeting Thursday to discuss Gov. Brian Kemp’s call to ban the teaching of “critical race theory” in Georgia public schools.

    Critical race theory is an academic framework defining racism as upheld through legal and social structures rather than simply individual bias. Critical race theorists argue that racial disparities in matters like wealth or education arise from policies that favor white people over Black people.

    Some conservatives say the theory amounts to racism against white people and slander against American principles of equality. Kemp entered the growing national debate in late May with a letter to the state school board that called the theory “divisive and anti-American.”

    The board is set to consider a resolution declaring that “concepts that impute fault, blame, a tendency to oppress others, or the need to feel guilt or anguish to persons solely because of their race or sex violate the premises of individual rights, equal  opportunity, and individual merit underpinning our constitutional republic, and therefore have no place in training for teachers, administrators, or other employees of the public educational system of the State of Georgia.”

    The resolution says the department believes no federal grant should be accepted that includes curriculum that would “indoctrinate students in social, or political, ideology or theory, or promote one race or sex above another” and that educators should not teach anything suggesting that one race or sex is superior to another or that members of a race should feel guilty about their identity.

    It also says no teacher should teach that “the advent of slavery in the territory that is now the United States constituted the true founding of the United States; or that, with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality.”

    Critical race theory came about in the 1970s and it remained a niche academic term until about a year ago. But it has bubbled to the surface of the American culture wars in recent months after protests over racial injustice rocked American cities and state legislatures passed bills critics said were aimed at diminishing the power of Black voters.

    Lately the issue has grown into a political rallying cry for Republican lawmakers in Washington, D.C., including northwest Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene who vows to fight for a ban on funding for teaching critical race theory.

    In Cherokee County, angry parents crowded into a meeting last month to harangue school board members into a resolution opposing teaching of critical race theory, something the school board never planned to do.

    Following the meeting, a newly hired administrator overseeing social and emotional learning and diversity, equity and inclusion withdrew her acceptance of the job after false rumors spread online that she was being hired to implement critical race theory into the curriculum.

    Georgia officials are jumping into a growing national controversy that other states are reacting to with new laws.

    Governors in Idaho, Tennessee and Oklahoma have signed measures to forbid the teaching of critical race theory in schools this year. Arkansas’ Republican governor let a similar measure become law without his signature, while a proposal in Iowa is waiting for Gov. Kim Reynolds’ approval.

    The Georgia Legislature did not take up critical race theory legislation in this year’s session that ended in early April as the controversy brewed, but Cherokee Republican Rep. Brad Thomas has said he is working on a bill to introduce ahead of the 2021 legislative session.

    Georgia Republicans heading into next year’s election are likely considering the opinion of former President Donald Trump, who railed against critical race theory from the White House and proposed an alternative “patriotic education,” which he said would provide a more “pro-American” curriculum.

    On Wednesday, Trump slammed Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey after the former president said he vetoed a bill that would have outlawed critical race theory training for state employees, calling Ducey a RINO, or Republican in name only.

    “For those of you who think Doug Ducey is good for Arizona, you are wrong,” Trump said.

    Ross Williams
    Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.