MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama might ban so-called “critical race theory” from being taught in public K-12 schools even though education officials said no schools are actually doing so.
Members of the Alabama Board of Education on Tuesday discussed the wording of a possible resolution that could be voted on later this summer. A Republican lawmaker has introduced legislation for the 2022 session to ban the teaching of critical race theory.
Some GOP-controlled states have already passed such bans this year as a national debate intensifies about how race should be used as a lens in classrooms to examine the country’s tumultuous history.
Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism, but it is not typically taught in public schools.
State Superintendent Eric Mackey said state school board members want to deal with the issue but said critical race theory is “certainly not” taught in schools now.
“Critical race theory as it exists is a graduate level concept. But it is not taught anywhere in any of our courses of study,” Mackey told board members Tuesday.
One draft of the state school board resolution would say that the board believes the U.S. is not inherently racist country, and the state of Alabama is not “inherently racist.”
“I can’t with a clear conscience say that that’s actually true,” board member Tonya Chestnut said Tuesday.
“Theoretically I would like to say that Alabama is not a racist state but I’ve experienced it,” said Chestnut, who is Black.
Board member Stephanie Bell expressed concern that the resolution did not go far enough.
“We need to deal with it in a way that actually does something instead of taking a stand so that it looks like we’ve done something,” Bell said.
Mackey said they will continue to work on the wording and may vote as soon as next month. The superintendent said they don’t want to infringe on teachers’ ability to talk to students about important, and even controversial, issues provided they don’t “push children to one side or the other.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama last week sent school board members a letter in opposition to the resolution.
“Instead of preserving intellectual freedom, this resolution is a blatant attempt to suppress and censor speech,” wrote JaTaune Bosby, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. “While states generally have latitude to determine school curricula, this effort to ban conversations about race would effectively gag educators and students, preventing both from teaching and learning effectively.”
Gov. Kay Ivey, who serves as president of the board, said, “Our goal is to have all of our students treated based on their individual ability, not on being part of a certain group, sex race or anything else,” Ivey said.