(April 1, 2022 • Atlanta) Today, the Georgia Senate passed HB 1084, which defines race and racism as “divisive concepts” and bans discussions of them in classrooms all across Georgia. The House is expected to agree to this bill at any moment. The Senate also passed HB 1178, which allows parents to burden administrations with endless complaints if they disagree with the curriculum being taught in their schools. Both bills will soon head to the Governor’s desk for signature and education advocates are urging him to use his veto power to protect students.
This slate of harmful education bills claims to promote and protect intellectual freedom – and yet does the exact opposite by mandating the adoption of inaccurate concepts, prohibiting truthful classroom conversations and punishing schools that allow students and educators to engage critically with the history of this country. These bills come as a direct reaction to the false rhetoric on “critical race theory,” all while ignoring the true challenges our Georgia education system faces: over two decades of underfunded classrooms and two years of a deadly pandemic.
Georgia student Alex Ames said: “Right now, there are Georgia students who go to schools named after Confederate generals. There are classrooms without enough teachers or textbooks to make it through the year, and there are hundreds of thousands of children learning in poverty. To neglect these issues while simultaneously rewriting the history that got us here is disgraceful. A generation of Georgians may bear the consequences.”
Gwinnett student Adunni Noibi added, “When these politicians stand up and say they’re fighting for ‘the children’ by banning history, I know they’re lying. I go to school in a place where plantations once stood, where monuments to confederate leaders and slave owners still stand. The man appointed to lead our colleges and universities made April Confederate History Month in Georgia. Erasing my people’s history is a threat to all people’s future.”
The passage of these bills is all the more concerning after the events of the Senate Youth and Education committee earlier this week, when the committee refused students the ability to testify, pushing through the legislation with no opportunity for public commentary or debate, and despite pushback from educational stakeholder groups at every level of the public education system.
“HB 1084 bill silences the voices of the students you claim to be protecting,” says Savannah student Jalen Connor, who was just one of many students denied public testimony during the Senate Youth and Education hearing this past Monday. “But what are you protecting them from exactly? The bill talks about banning divisive concepts being taught in the classroom when in actuality these concepts do not exist. How long has it been since any one of you has been inside a high school history class? Because for me it was last Friday.”
These bills silence students, censor classrooms, intimidate educators, and intentionally pit parents against schools, when in reality all of these stakeholders, no matter their political affiliation, will suffer the consequences.
As individuals, organizations, and coalition members who have opposed these bills from day one, we remain committed in our opposition to HB 1084 and HB 1178. We all know that Georgia’s schools work best when we teach the truth and invest in every child.
It is the responsibility of those holding the levers of power to listen to Georgians who demand an end to bad legislation that censors history and guts vital school funds. And yet, when that process fails, we as citizens and stakeholders must hold those in power accountable. As Georgia student, Jordan Madden, said of legislators backing this bill after a suppressive committee hearing on Tuesday, “Georgia will remember you for this.”
Our families know that their children’s schools and future are on the ballot this November – as are the very politicians who disappointed us again today. Now more than ever, our children deserve better, and we must – and will – continue the good, hard work of building a just, free, and equitably funded public education.
We are asking Governor Kemp to listen to Georgia students, parents, educators, and advocates and veto these bills.