News: CJ News Service

N.C. Senate passes anti-indoctrination bill after emotional debate

Senate Leader Phil Berger speaks with Lt. Governor Mark Robinson at the release of the F.A.C.T.S. Task Force report outlining instances of bias in N.C. public schools as reported by parents and teachers from across the state. August 24, 2021 at the state legislative building in Raleigh. Photo by Maya Reagan, Carolina Journal
Senate Leader Phil Berger speaks with Lt. Governor Mark Robinson at the release of the F.A.C.T.S. Task Force report outlining instances of bias in N.C. public schools as reported by parents and teachers from across the state. August 24, 2021 at the state legislative building in Raleigh. Photo by Maya Reagan, Carolina Journal

A bill that would prohibit public schools from promoting controversial viewpoints related to Critical Race Theory cleared the N.C. Senate on Thursday. Debate about the bill featured rare personal attacks among senators.

The vote split along party lines, with 25 Republicans voting in favor and 17 Democrats against.

House Bill 324, Ensuring Dignity and Nondiscrimination in Schools, would ban the teaching of 13 discriminatory concepts in the classroom, including:

  • That one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.
  • An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive.
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.
  • A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist.
  • Particular character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs should be ascribed to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex.

Each of these ideas has been linked to Critical Race Theory.

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, spearheaded the bill. Berger has vowed to fight the teaching of CRT in public schools “with everything that I have.”

“Students must not be forced to adopt an ideology that is separate and distinct from history; an ideology that promotes ‘present discrimination’ — so long as it’s against the right again — as ‘antiracist,’” said Berger in a statement.

At one point, Berger asked his Democrat colleagues to name one item on the list of 13 discriminatory concepts that they would favor changing. No Senate Democrats responded.

Instead, Democrats claimed the bill would muzzle teachers’ ability to instruct students in the full scope of American history.

“We can understand that the United States is a great and unique country whose values are worth defending and teaching, while we realize simultaneously that the same country has made horrible mistakes,” said Sen. Mark Woodard, D-Durham. “This bill will limit our ability to hold and to teach these disparate values at the same time.”

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, clashed with Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, on the Senate floor, indicating that she believes homeschool parents are not educators.

The debate became personal at one point when Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, accused fellow Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, of not being an educator. Newton responded on Twitter that he and his wife “successfully homeschooled our children. Is it the [N.C. Senate Democrat’s] position that homeschooling parents are not educators?”

The N.C. Senate Democrats’ Twitter account later responded, “Surely you cooked your family dinner over the years. We still wouldn’t call you a chef.”

“What an absolute insult, not only to my family, but to the large (and growing) home education community in North Carolina,” Newton responded. “Democrats want to control every single aspect of your life, and here is more evidence of that truth.”

North Carolina has one of the largest homeschooling communities of any state in the nation with parents of more than 179,000 N.C. children choosing to educate them at home. That number jumped nearly 20% during the 2020 COVID-19 school shutdowns.

H.B. 324 made its way through the Senate Education and Rules committees earlier this week. In committee debate, Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, clashed with Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. Chaudhuri claimed that H.B. 324 would authorize a “witch hunt” of public school teachers and accused Robinson of promoting “Fox News,” “fear-mongering.”

Robinson labeled Chaudhuri’s characterization an insult, pointing out that the legislative action stemmed from hundreds of complaints from parents and teachers. In the same committee meeting, Chaudhuri was not heard offering a “no” vote during the bill’s voice vote. Nor was he present for the Senate floor debate and vote, despite having been in a legislative meeting Thursday morning. Chaudhuri was one of eight senators with excused absences from the floor vote.

The measure now returns to the House for a concurrence vote. If the House rejects the Senate’s version of the bill, the two chambers would set up a conference committee. That group could iron out a final version of the bill.