La. lawmaker withdraws bill making it potentially illegal to teach about racism & sexism

Updated: Apr. 5, 2021 at 11:31 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A proposed bill in the Louisiana House of Representatives that aimed to make it potentially illegal for teachers to teach certain things about racism or sexism was withdrawn by the author.

UPDATE 4/27:

The bill, which addresses training at K-12 schools and postsecondary education institutions with respect to certain concepts related to race and sex, was voluntarily withdrawn by the author pending further dialogue on the issue.

Holloway issued the following statement regarding the position of the Board:

“BESE thanks Chairman Garofalo for the dialogue regarding this bill. While we greatly appreciate our collaborative relationship in determining how best to advance strong student-centered policies, we have made the decision to oppose HB 564 and are pleased with his decision to voluntarily defer the bill.

As those elected to govern policies for nearly 800,000 Louisiana students, we have heard from educators across the state regarding this bill and the undue burden, risk and stress it could place on them and their school leadership – particularly after what has been an incredibly challenging year. This is especially true for history teachers across the state. If the bill were to pass, how would they have the direction needed to adjust their teaching? More importantly, how would they be able to ensure honesty when teaching history without fear of repercussions? How would every classroom be monitored each day? These questions, currently unanswered, are a cause of concern for teachers and administrators.

Secondly, we are a state that prioritizes – rightfully – local control with regard to curriculum selection and implementation. With districts taking the lead on these decisions, the timeline outlined for implementation is not reasonable to ensure identification, selection, and implementation of new curricula with fidelity. Additionally, the bill puts the state in the driver’s seat with regard to dictating what can or cannot be part of curriculum and taught in the classroom – decisions that are currently and rightfully placed at the local level, and rightfully made closest to the students being served.

Finally, HB 564 is so broadly written that it presents a potential “slippery slope”. Not only does the bill prevent the discussion of “systemic” and “institutionalized” issues that have resulted in harm being done to some in our society, it threatens the ability of our educators to be honest and tell the truth to our students about our nation’s history and those who have worked – and are working together today – to make our nation greater and more united.

The truth is that systemic and institutionalized racism and sexism do exist. Denial of such truth telling – not indoctrination or blaming – prevents our state and country from an important acknowledgement that is required to move into a new day united. We believe this bill would prevent the truth telling and honesty about our past required for writing a brighter future and history for all families here.

We look forward to a continued collaborative working relationship with Representative Garofalo and all members of the Louisiana Legislature to strengthen outcomes for students across Louisiana and to support educators and school leaders in their craft of teaching.”

“It’s written from a viewpoint, as everybody’s treated equally,” said Representative Ray Garofalo, District 103.

Garofalo is the chairman of Louisiana’s House Education Committee and is proposing a new bill to ban what he calls ‘divisive concepts’ in pretty much all Louisiana school systems.

“I want facts to be taught, I want our students to receive as much information as possible. I don’t want to cover anything up. I think they should be informed, so they can make informed decisions. And that includes giving them as much factual history as possible. But when you start teaching from one perspective, you’re indoctrinating. And it’s not fair to students, and it’s certainly not fair to them as they become young adults, because then they may only get that one side of the story. So I want to make sure that they’re getting both sides, or in some times, multiple sides of the story, so that they can make their own informed decisions throughout their careers,” said Rep. Garofalo.

Garofalo calls it an ‘equality bill,’ to level the playing field among students of all backgrounds.

Those divisive concepts he lists in the bill for educators to potentially not teach about are:

- That one race or sex is inherently superior or inferior to another race or sex

- That either the United States of America or the state of Louisiana is fundamentally, institutionally, or systemically racist or sexist.

- That an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently or systemically racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, or has negative or positive characteristics that inhere in the individual’s DNA.

- That an individual should be discriminated against, favored, or receive differential treatment solely or partly because of the individual’s race or sex.

- That an individual of one race or sex should be treated disrespectfully regarding that individual’s race or sex.

- That an individual’s moral character is any way defined, described, or determined by the individual’s race or sex.

- That an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility or is to be held accountable for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.

- That any individual should feel or be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological or emotional distress on account of that individual’s race or sex.

- That the concept of meritocracy or traits such as a strong work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by a particular race or sex to oppress another race or sex.

- That the concepts of capitalism, free markets, or working for a private party in exchange for wages are racist and sexist or oppress a given race or sex.

- That the concepts of racial equity and gender equity, meaning the unequal treatment of individuals because of their race, sex, or national origin, should be given preference in education and advocacy over the concepts of racial equality and gender equality, meaning the equal treatment of individuals regardless of their race, sex, or national origin.

- Any form of race or sex scapegoating or race or sex stereotyping. For purposes of this Subparagraph: “Race or sex scapegoating” means assigning fault, blame, or bias to a race or sex or to members of a race or sex because of their race or sex or claiming that consciously or unconsciously, and by virtue of a persons’ race or sex, members of any race are inherently racist or inherently inclined to oppress others or that members of a sex are inherently sexist or inherently inclined to oppress others.

- “Race or sex stereotyping” means ascribing character traits, values, moral and ethical codes, privileges, status, or beliefs to a race or sex or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex.

“It’s specifically stated in there that you can teach about that, but you have to do it from a balanced viewpoint, you can’t do it from one position over another. And let’s face it, if you’re only teaching one viewpoint, you’re indoctrinating. So, we want to make sure our students are exposed to as much information as possible, with competing viewpoints, so that they get the big picture, so that they can make informed decisions,” said Garofalo.

Many legislators in other states across the country are filing similar bills, against what’s called the ‘critical race theory idea.’ Essentially on what information teachers can give to their students, based on race and gender.

“I think critics would say this is limiting free speech, how would you respond to that,” questioned WAFB’s Lester Duhe’.

“I would say, that that if you look at the plain language of the bill, it’s not limiting free speech. In fact, I think it’s promoting free speech. I’m a strong free speech advocate, and I’m a strong believer in educational freedom. But you need to give students as much factual information as you can, with all perspectives. When you give them only one perspective, you’re indoctrinating them, and it’s not fair, it’s not right, and it sets people up for failure,” said Garofalo.

The bill would apply to schools in Louisiana such as, “A public elementary or secondary school, a nonpublic elementary or secondary school that receives state funds, a public postsecondary education institution, a nonpublic post secondary education institution that receives state funds.”

“I think this bill is problematic. I think the reading of this bill would eliminate Black history from being taught, and I think that’s a challenge. Even some on the conservative side, always quote Dr. Martin Luther King as a prime example about what is beautiful about America. But this bill in the way it’s written, would actually eliminate us even teaching about Martin Luther King, because his work was about ending racism, and this bill is about ending the teaching of racism,” said Davante Lewis with The Louisiana Budget Project.

Advocates like Lewis believe this bill censors free speech and academic freedom.

“Our academic freedom right now allows for diversity. People can take African-American studies and gender studies if they want, they can take European history which is entirely white. So, what this bill does, is it tries to force a conversation about people who have grievances against the others. About other generations, other people being able to be part of the conversation about American history. and once again it’s about American exceptionalism. But you can’t talk about the beauty of America, without talking about the dark sins of America, which has been racism and sexism,” said Lewis.

“This bill simply says that everybody is treated equally, regardless of your race, your sex or your national origin. Everybody’s treated equally. And I believe that that’s the type of learning environment that our students should expect in the state of Louisiana and quite frankly that our employees and educators, that’s the type of environment they want to work in,” said Garofalo.

Tweaks could be made to the bill, as the legislative session kicks off next week.

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