Durham school board opposes bill they say would limit teaching about race, sex biases

The Durham Public Schools Board of Education drafted a resolution Thursday opposing North Carolina House Bill 324, which would limit how school teachers can address race and sex in class.

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Emily Walkenhorst
, WRAL education reporter
DURHAM, N.C. — The Durham Public Schools Board of Education drafted a resolution Thursday opposing North Carolina House Bill 324, which would limit how school teachers can address race and sex in class.

The bill would “restrict and prohibit honest conversations about race, conflict with the existing state and local education standards, and infringe free speech rights of students, educators and staff,” the board wrote in its resolution.

That would impede efforts to make racial and gender equity a priority by both the district and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, per the resolution. DPI recently adopted new social studies standards to include more diverse perspectives and more discussions of inequities and discrimination.

The bill would make discussing racism and sexism in historical and current forms more difficult, the board contends. Specifically, racism persists in the form of continued unofficial school segregation and in other systems, disadvantaging many people, the resolution states.

House Bill 324 prohibits teaching the idea that believing the U.S. is a meritocracy — in which a person’s success is dictated by their merits alone — is “an inherently racist or sexist belief.”

The bill also prohibits teaching that people have inherent racial or sexist biases, as well as lessons promoting affirmative action or reparations for acts committed by prior generations.

The board approved the resolution Thursday after members took turns reading it. Members spent little time discussing the resolution.

Many Republicans favor the bill, concerned that some teachings about racism or sexism might make some children feel bad about themselves or their country. Many Democrats oppose the bill, concerned that it will impede educators’ ability to discuss the realities of racism and sexism.

The bill does not specifically mention “critical race theory.” But many people debating the bill have used the term to describe what the bill bans.

Critical race theory teaches racism as a social construct and contends racism is embedded in laws and policies, according to a recent Education Week article.

As schools have focused more on equity initiatives, the term has been used to describe many more things.

The Durham school board contends that critical race theory doesn’t discriminate against a particular race or sex but rather heightens awareness of how systems in the United States discriminate.

The school board called the bill the work of the conservative organizations American Legislative Exchange Council and Heritage Foundation.

Instead of passing House Bill 324, the board asks that North Carolina General Assembly act on the district’s legislative priorities to improve educational equity, such as funding equity officers in each school district.

House Bill 324 bans the teaching of seven concepts, as well as the use of materials to promote them. It doesn’t ban schools from assigning materials that incorporate the seven things, so long as “the public school unit does not sponsor, approve, or endorse such concepts or works.”

The seven concepts banned are teaching that:

  • One race or sex is inherently superior
  • An individual, because of their race or sex, inherently has conscious or unconscious biases that are racist, sexist or oppressive
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive unfair treatment
  • An individual’s morality is determined by their race or sex
  • An individual, solely because of their race or sex, must be responsible for actions committed by prior generations of that same race or sex
  • Any individual, solely because of their race or sex, should feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress”
  • The belief that the U.S. is a meritocracy is an inherently racist or sexist belief, or that the U.S. was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex

The bill doesn’t prohibit First Amendment-protected speech, and it doesn’t prohibit people from accessing materials that advocate for the seven banned concepts, so long as they do so “on an individual basis.”



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