NewsLEX 18 In-Depth

Actions

Prefiled bill seeks to limit systemic racism talks in Kentucky classrooms

Posted at 8:16 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 20:16:50-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — A Kentucky lawmaker pre-filed a bill that would limit how systemic racism and sexism can be discussed in Kentucky's public classrooms.

Representative Joe Fischer pre-filed Bill Request 60 on Tuesday. The measure would ban Kentucky's public schools from using their curriculum or supplemental learning materials to teach or promote the following concepts:

  • One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex
  • An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex
  • Members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex
  • An individual's moral character is determined by his or her race or sex
  • An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex
  • An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex
  • Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race
  • The Commonwealth or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist
  • Values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs can be assigned to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the individual's race or sex
  • Promoting or advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government
  • Promoting division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people

According to the bill, citizens would be able to file complaints with the Attorney General if they think a teacher discusses any of the prohibited topics. If the Attorney General finds a violation and determines that the violation is continuing, schools would lose $5,000 in state funding per day.

Some Kentucky teachers have already spoken out against the bill, saying that it is an effort to censor education.

"It’s absolutely whitewashing our history and looking at it through rose-colored glasses," said Christina Trosper, a social studies teacher in Knox County. "We can use all types of different analogies for what it is, but it’s horrible. And to me, it’s completely unamerican."

"How do I teach about imperialism without letting my students read and be disgusted by “White Man’s Burden”? Do I not address the Chinese Exclusion Act? Skip The Trail of Tears and Wounded Knee?" asked Trosper on Twitter. "Do I teach the Holocaust without addressing the attitude of Christians toward Jewish people for centuries before Hitler? Do I not teach about Social Darwinism?"

Trosper believes it's important to not only teach the good when it comes to history, but also "the horrendous things we did in the name of religion, racism, and sexism."

“We will not stand by and watch what happened in Soviet-era Russia - what happens in North Korea -happen in the Commonwealth of Kentucky," she said.

On Wednesday, LEX 18 tried to ask Fischer about the bill. He would not answer our questions and repeatedly told us to refer to his press release.

LEX 18 could not find the press release. It was emailed out several minutes after we asked Fischer about his bill.

In the press release, Fischer says the bill aims to ban the concept of critical race theory from classrooms.

“Critical race theory is not based on facts or evidence but rather serves as a dangerous diversion from education priorities that are actually proven to eliminate disparities,” Fischer added. “It is a powerful tool for those who seek to divide us into categories and destroy the very institutions that have seen generations of Americans of all races and backgrounds build successful futures.”

Fischer said he filed the bill after Highlands High School, a school in his district, considered adding a course that would focus on social justice issues.

“There have always been those who seek to divide. Without a doubt, we are an imperfect nation founded by imperfect people, but we have spent much of the past 250 years working to become better," Fischer said in the release. "Our history includes dark chapters but offers far more hope than hostility. After all, countless immigrants from around the world have sought us out because this is the land of opportunity."

But not everyone agrees with the government controlling what is taught in schools. Kentucky's top Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked about Fischer's bill during a stop in Shelby County on Wednesday. McConnell did not address Fischer's specific bill, but he said he's concerned about efforts to downplay significant events in American history.

While McConnell said he's critical of the way some initiatives frame American history, he believes the government shouldn't dictate how to teach race issues in schools.

"Bringing more balance is not necessarily a bad idea, but I don’t think the government ought to be able to dictate, in effect, what’s taught," said McConnell.

Kentucky's Education Commissioner also weighed in on the issue, saying he opposes "efforts to limit free speech and the exchange of ideas" in Kentucky's classrooms.

"I also oppose state-level and politically-driven efforts to micromanage our local classroom teachers,” said Commissioner Jason Glass.

Kentucky lawmakers are unable to pass any bills until the legislative session begins in January 2022 or the governor calls them in for a special session.

In the meantime, Trosper says social studies teachers should fight this bill.

"Every social studies teacher in this state has the duty to stand up to this blatant censorship," Trosper said on Twitter. "We must fight for our students more than we ever have before. The future of our nation depends on us."