Coalition pushes back against House’s ‘anti-stereotyping’ bill

A coalition of lawmakers and activists is pushing back on a “curriculum transparency” bill that could limit classroom discussions about race and sex.

“Now critical race theory has never been taught in schools, it’s not taught in schools, but yet and still, these individuals go out and perpetrate this lie for political gain,” said state Senator Owens Brown, D-Ohio.

“This bill to censor certain materials in public school is a slippery slope. And the question is where will it stop, where we’ll stop.”

Brown was speaking about House Bill 4011 is called “The Anti-Stereotyping Act.” The Republican majority in the House Education Committee voted in favor of advancing the bill last week, and it now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

Delegates announced today that a public hearing will focus on the bill from 9 to 10 a.m. this Wednesday in the House Chamber.

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The bill would require schools or school systems to publicly post any personnel training materials related to issues such as nondiscrimination, race or sex. Instructional materials about those topics would also have to be posted publicly. A revised version of the bill removed a requirement to post lesson plans.

Another section of the bill would forbid schools from embracing stereotypes based on race, sex, ethnicity, religion or national origin. The bill specifies that individuals should not be blamed “for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, sex, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.”

The bill states that it does not prohibit discussion or assignments that incorporate the concepts of race and sex for educational purposes.

Supporters say the bill would help parents and communities be aware of training and lessons surrounding societal issues in schools.

But critics are concerned that the true intent is to stifle discussion of the role sex, race and ethnicity plays in American society.

Brown was one of the speakers at an event organized by groups like West Virginia NOW, West Virginia NAACP and others. He described a duty to push back against bills like “The Anti-Stereotyping Act.”

“We must challenge these individuals who introduced these bills, and we must inform the public of what they’re doing. And we must inform their voters as to what they’re doing,” he said. “Because this cultural war they’re engaging in leads to some type of divisions they’re talking about.”

Danielle Walker

Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, the only black woman serving in the Legislature, said the policy would wind up allowing stereotypes to fester instead of dismantling them.

“What it sounds like is very stereotypical to me,” she said. “What it sounds like is discrimination. what it sounds like is racism, what it sounds like it’s sexism, what it sounds like is homophobia, and I know that we are better than this. Because all mountaineers are supposed to be free.”

Waving copies of bills in front of a camera at the livestreamed event, Walker said, “What is a waste of time and taxpayer dollars is this, these bills.”

If the Republican supermajorities support the bill or other policies it’s unclear whether they could be derailed.

Darryl Clausell

Darryl Clausell, president of NAACP West Virginia, described a broader political battle.

“We can get upset. We can get mad. But the bottom line is in order to make changes we need to get people involved. The bottom line is vote now like your life depends on it,” Clausell said.

He noted that legislatures in at least a dozen states have introduced similar bills. The policies have spun out of the national discussion of critical race theory, which is an academic concept that racism may lie not only with individuals but also exists through lingering effects in legal systems and policies.

He said bills like “The Anti-Stereotyping Act” are “part of a divisive effort.” “I think this will backfire against these politicians in the long run,” he said.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Republican Guy Ward of Marion County, said critical race theory is the focus. Ward spoke today on “Talk of the Town” on WAJR Radio.

“People say, Why do we need this bill in West Virginia? Well, it’s starting to come in to West Virginia,” Ward said, citing an incident in Jefferson County. “We’re trying to be proactive, so to say. And that’s why we brought this bill forward.”

Cody Thompson

Delegate Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, is a school teacher. Speaking on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” he said his classes never include critical race theory or make judgments about individual students based on their gender or race.

“There is no teacher out there right now in West Virginia doing anything remotely like this. There is no teacher out in the state of West Virginia telling students that they are less than, or that they’re they’re a racist just because of their race. That is not happening in West Virginia,” he said.

But Thompson acknowledged that teachers would want to lead discussions about how race or sex have played a role in American history — for example, lessons about women’s suffrage.

“This bill the way it reads, any instructional or curricular materials concerning diversity, equity, inclusion, race, ethnicity, sector bias — that is going to limit what I would feel comfortable saying,” Thompson said.

“No one is saying a particular race is guilty of anything when I’m talking to my students; however, I think I should have the ability for one to say racism is wrong. I think I should have the ability to say slavery is wrong. Those are not opinions. those are just facts. slavery is wrong. And I can say yes, I’m glad women have the right to vote.”

 





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