Sign resolution generic
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Members of the Durham county’s school board on Thursday unanimously adopted a strongly worded resolution opposing state legislation that would prohibit the state’s public schools “from promoting certain concepts” that are contrary to the “equality and rights of all persons.”

The convolutedly worded House Bill 187, titled “Equality in Education,” is sponsored by GOP legislators Reps. John A. Torbett of Gaston, Hugh Blackwell of Burke, David Willis of Union, and Diane Wheatley of Cumberland.

At the heart of the legislation is an Orwellian attempt to whitewash history because elements of this country’s past may make individuals “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish,” or other forms of “psychological distress,” according to the first edition of the bill filed on February 27. 

Absent from the bill’s seeming sensitivity toward the feelings of how accurately teaching this nation’s history may cause “psychological distress” are the feelings of Black American students, teachers and administrators, and other historically marginalized groups, including women whose struggles and contributions would be sidelined in public school classrooms if the legislation is enacted.

Durham school board members’ resolution noted the partisan and divisive bill is mirrored by similar legislation in state houses across the country as part of a coordinated effort by the highly conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heritage Foundation.

Durham school board members offered up several recommendations to the General Assembly. The say the state’s lawmakers should focus developing a robust public education budget with an equity toolkit that fully supports students in North Carolina, fund the hiring of “dedicated equity directors for every local education authority to develop and share best practices statewide,” and “adopt a comprehensive, anti-racist, and inclusive curriculum for every school.”

School board members say the bill is an attempt “to restrict and prohibit honest conversations about race.”

Board members add that the bill also conflicts “with existing state and local education standards.” The proposed legislation ironically states that it would not prohibit “free speech,” but the school board says that’s exactly what the bill is proposing: “the infringing on the free speech rights of students, educators, and staff.”

The board’s resolution also states that “a sound education” is grounded in “accurate facts about all aspects of the nation’s history, “including systemic racism and discrimination, [is] guaranteed for every North Carolina student in our state’s Constitution.”

From the onset, the four-page resolution takes aim at the bill’s attempt to forbid public schools from promoting that the United States is “a meritocracy [that] is inherently racist or sexist,” and “was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex.” 

The school board members warn that if the bill becomes law, “it would prohibit educators from discussing the full facts of American history,” including the fact that  “several Constitutional Amendments were created to redress racist and sexist beliefs and policies in the original U.S. Constitution for the purpose of restoring the rights of previously oppressed members of a race or sex.”

The board members note that “the 13th Amendment of 1865 [that] abolished slavery, a system in which members of a particular race had, in fact, oppressed members of another race.”

Durham’s elected public education leaders state that if the bill is passed, the state’s public school educators “would be prohibited to debate or consider teaching about the Jim Crow Era, in which a series of laws prevented African Americans from accessing rights such as voting or holding office,” nor would educators be allowed “to debate or consider teaching that women were not granted the right to vote until 1920 under the 19th amendment, and even then, African American and Indigenous women were still routinely denied their voting rights.”

Moreover, the board members state that “more than sixty-five years after the Supreme Court ruling on Brown vs. Board, segregated schooling is a particularly profound and timely demonstration of the ongoing persistence of systemic racism.”

The resolution also notes that HB 187 runs counter several measures both locally and across the state to create a more equitable learning environment, including the Durham Public Schools’ (DPS) Office of Equity Affairs that was created in 2017, a strategic plan in 2018 with equity as a guiding principle and the North Carolina State Board of Education’s adoption of a strategic plan “which defined equity as an essential guiding principle.”

The Durham board’s resolution notes that in 2021, members of the state board of education “approved new social studies standards which were developed by educators to ensure that a more comprehensive, accurate, and honest history was taught to all students, including content on racism, identity, and discrimination.”

The school board’s resolution did not address the bill’s forbidding classroom discussion about violently overthrowing the government. It’s a rather rich and ironic prohibition, given the violent January 6 insurrection at the nation’s capitol by overwhelmingly GOP supporters.

The resolution also responds to the bill’s proposal that public schools notify the NC Department of Public Schools apparently to monitor “curricula, reading lists, seminars, workshops, or other educational or professional settings.”

Durham school board members stated that the local school system’s “curriculum and training include a race equity lens and culturally responsive instruction.” The training events are “offered from content expert consultants as we work together to dismantle racism and work together towards a more just future.”

While urging members of the General Assembly to vote against the bill, the board members say Durham public schools “continues to unanimously approve equity-based policy” with the goal of creating “a more equitable and inclusive experience where Black students, families, and staff can be affirmed and can express themselves in a safe and positive way.”

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