Georgia Board of Education debates limits on critical race theory, passes resolution

Georgia's Board of Education adopted a resolution that would limit discussions of race in the classroom.

Thursday afternoon, state education officials plan to host a special session to consider a resolution proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp on limiting how critical race theory is taught in schools.

The resolution states in part that the board believes "no state education agency, school district, or school shall teach, or instruct" concepts regarding race in the classroom that make "an individual feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex."

The resolution comes just a few weeks after Gov. Brian Kemp sent the board a letter saying calling critical race theory should not be taught in Georgia schools. Board Chairman Scott Sweeney says while this resolution doesn't directly target critical race theory it does set a foundation statement that there will be no divisiveness in the classroom. 

"The resolution does not create a situation where we are looking at individuals differently," Chairman Sweeney says.

Sweeney says the resolution does not specifically target Critical Race Theory, nor does it change any curriculum. 

Board member and Teacher of the Year, Tracey Pendley, says it limits teachers. 

"In some of the wording teachers will be censored when talking about current events," Pendley says.

The resolution passed 11-2. Board members Kenneth Mason and Leonte Benton voted against it. 

"The statement when I read it made me feel like I didn't belong because it excused the existence of racism in my life, my children's lives," Mason says.

Those who support the resolution say they're not disregarding history, they want teachers to share all perspectives. 

"We must teach the true story of American history and be honest about the injustices, but put it in true context and progress we made," Board Member Mike Royal says.

After the resolution was passed, the Georgia Association of Educators released a statement saying it's an ill-conceived resolution that will hinder teachers. 

The special session also comes as the debate over the theory heats up in many Georgia school districts.

At a Cherokee County School Board meeting in May, a decision that teachers would not be allowed to discuss the theory in the classroom elicited thunderous applause from those in the audience, predominantly white, who oppose teaching the theory.

LEARN MORE: What is critical race theory, and why is it causing controversy? 

Cobb County School District Superintendent Chris Ragsdale later vowed that it would not be talked about in the classroom so long as it’s not part of "Georgia’s standards."

"As long as I am Superintendent, I will commit to keeping any theory or curriculum, which is not part of Georgia's standards, out of every Cobb County classroom," Ragsdale says. 

Supporters of the theory, however, say it's important that the concept is taught in the classroom.

SEE ALSO: Kemp urges Georgia Board of Education to not teach 'Critical Race Theory'

"Critical race theory says that as we examine structures in society, we must examine the history of racism within society," said Dr. Cynthia Neal Spence, director of the Social Justice Fellows Program at Spelman College. "As we examine the history of racism in our society, we know that its tentacles have gone beyond just behaviors of individuals."

In his letter to the board of education in May, Kemp urged the board to take steps to keep the theory out of the classroom, calling it "divisive and anti-American."

SEE MORE: Forsyth County residents debate diversity curriculum in schools

Others, like Dr. Ben Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Cobb County, disagree with the governor's assessment.

"To try to produce graduates who in fact have an isolated view of what the world order is like, to me is criminal," Williams said.

Nationally, at least six Republican-controlled state legislatures have proposed or implemented restrictions on how teachers talk about racial inequality in the classroom. Legislators in Georgia have vowed to introduce similar legislation.

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