NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!
Republican legislators in states across the country have introduced legislation to combat the use of critical race theory (CRT) in public schools, and while critics claim the bills attack free speech, advocates frame the issue as a matter of preventing discrimination on the basis of race and upholding federal civil-rights law.
“This is very clearly about rooting out discrimination and racism for everyone. This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democrat issue,” Arizona State Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Gilbert, the sponsor of three bills on the issue, told Fox News Digital. “This furthers the work of our civil rights leaders who fought so hard to get us to where we are today.”
Georgia State Rep. Will Wade, R-Dawsonville, a sponsor of the Georgia law, said his bill aimed to “ensure that children in the classroom are not pitted against each other based on their race. I believe the content of our character is how we should be measured and that we should show complete and total respect to every human being.”
Parents and grassroots activists have raised the alarm about critical race theory – a framework that involves deconstructing aspects of society to discover systemic racism beneath the surface – in public schools.
Opponents of the bills claimed they’ve stifled teachers’ First Amendment rights and prevented them from talking about the history of American slavery.
“Instead of encouraging learning, classroom censorship bills effectively gag educators and students from learning and talking about issues related to race and gender that impact their everyday lives,” Emerson Sykes, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, told Fox News Digital. “We will continue to work to defend students’ and educators’ right to teach and learn a complete history in schools, free from censorship or discrimination.”
“We should teach about race and racism the same way we teach about math or chemistry: as accurately as we can,” Andrea Young, the executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, told Fox News Digital in a written statement. “Whether you are white, Black, or Brown, as a parent you want your kids to get an accurate view of history including the ways we have not lived up to our ideals on race and inequality, including now.”
Yet the bills’ proponents claimed they’re upholding the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Wade’s bill, H.B. 1084, would prohibit school systems from using any curriculum or mandatory program to “act upon, promote or encourage divisive concepts” including claims that “one race is inherently superior to another race;” that “The United States of America is fundamentally racist;” that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race, is inherently racist or oppressive toward individuals of other races, whether consciously or subconsciously;” that “an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race;” and that “meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or were created by individuals of a particular race to oppress individuals of another race;” among other claims.
The bill also stated that “nothing in this code shall be construed to” “inhibit or violate the rights protected by the Constitution of Georgia and the United States of America or undermine intellectual fredom and free expression.” The bill also states that it shall not prohibit school officials “from responding in an objective manner and without endorsement to questions regarding specific divisive concepts raised by students” or others and that it shall not “prohibit the discussion of divisive concepts, as part of a larger course of instruction, in an objective manner and without endorsement.”
“It was important to me as a son of two educators and a husband to a phenomenal educator, that we ensure that their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression are not inhibited,” Wade told Fox News Digital. “We crafted this legislation to ensure that teachers still have academic flexibility to talk about current events.”
In Arizona, Hoffman sponsored H.B. 2906, which Gov. Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., signed into law in July 2021. That law prohibits any local or state government agency from promoting or requiring training that places “any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex,” such as claims that any race is “inherently morally or intellectually superior to another,” or that “an individual should be invidiously discriminated against… solely or partly because of the individual’s race.”
Hoffman also supported H.B. 2112, which would prohibit instruction on the ideas in pre-K-through-12 education. He also backed House Concurrent Resolution 2001, a state constitutional amendment that, if approved, will go to the ballot in November. H.C.R. 2001 states that school officials “may not compel or require any employee or student to adopt, affirm, endorse, adhere to or profess and idea contrary to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” such as the statements in H.B. 2906.
“We want the voters to weigh on this. We as a state reject racism and discrimination,” Hoffman told Fox News Digital. “To say that somehow rejecting racism… to say that that’s somehow limiting free speech, I just don’t buy that argument.”
Jonathan Butcher, an education fellow at the Heritage Foundation, which has crafted model legislation combating CRT, told Fox News Digital the ideology is directly opposed to the foundations of constitutional law.
“Critical race theory is meant to be applied,” Butcher said. “Those who write about critical race theory say it has an activist dimension. By applying these ideas, they are trying to undermine the Civil Rights Act, the most important civil rights law in federal code. We’re saying, ‘You cannot require someone to act or believe on this idea that conflicts with federal law.’”
According to Heritage’s CRT legislation tracker, seven states have enacted legislation protecting students and employees against CRT, while such legislation is pending in ten states and has been introduced in eight.
“The whole principle behind critical race theory is that it is a lens by which you view every aspect of society; it’s something you adapt, it’s a worldview,” Jessica Anderson, the executive director at Heritage Action, an organization that’s equipped grassroots activists to advocate for bills opposing CRT and supporting curriculum transparency, told Fox News Digital. “Critical race theory divides people by race and when that lens is applied to anything in society the result is going to be segregation.”
“The Democratic Party at both the federal and state level, they’re so polarized against anything from the Right, even if it’s values that they have supported,” Anderson lamented.
Hoffman noted that not a single Democrat voted for H.B. 2906. “Democrats who will opine on the need for racial healing, not a single one of them voted to support saying that Arizona doesn’t support racism,” he said.
Wade, however, expressed hope that at least a few Georgia Democrats might back his bill. While every Democrat in the subcommittee voted against H.B. 1084, one of the members privately told Wade that “they want to vote for this legislation.” Wade said he’s speaking with five Democrats who may consider the bill – “I think two or three will vote for it.”