Georgia passes bill restricting discussion of race in schools | Race in education

The Georgia general assembly has passed a bill targeting the discussion of race in schools that also paves the way for transgender students to be banned from playing sport on girls’ teams, after a late-night legislative session on Monday.

HB1084 bans the teaching of nine so-called “divisive concepts”, including that the US is “fundamentally racist” and that “one race is inherently superior to another race”.

The “divisive concepts” are almost identical those identified in an executive order signed by then president Donald Trump in 2020, which sought to ban them from federal worker training. The bill also establishes a process for local school boards to vet parents’ complaints over teaching of the concepts.

The bill is the latest in a line of state moves seeking to curb the discussion of race in schools and ban critical race theory, an academic discipline that examines the ways in which racism operates in US laws and society which has become a lightning-rod issue for Republicans.

Last month in Mississippi, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a vaguely worded bill targeting critical race theory. It met with unanimous and pointed criticism from Black lawmakers.

During a late-night session on Monday, Georgia Republicans added a last-minute measure to the legislation that allows the state’s high school athletics governing body to ban transgender girls from competing against other girls in public school sports.

An earlier iteration of the bill, which passed the state senate but was blocked in the house, sought an outright ban on transgender boys and girls playing on teams that did not match their genders assigned at birth.

Georgia Democrats denounced the last-minute changes. The Democratic house leader, James Beverly, described the measure as an effort to “target trans kids, to ban kids from playing sports, and to attack teachers at the same time”, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“This bill targets the most vulnerable Georgians, transgender youth,” said Matthew Wilson, a Democratic representative quoted in local press. “It sets us up not only to be on the wrong side of history and morality, but on the wrong end of litigation.”

But the Republican state house speaker, David Ralston, who blocked the previous iteration from the senate, defended the measure, suggesting it did not seek to ban transgender students from playing sports outright.

“We’re going to let them [the Georgia High School Association] make those determinations,” Ralston told reporters. “And we have an oversight committee on that. But that’s really where these determinations need to be made.”

The bill passed the house along partisan lines and will now make its way to the Republican governor, Brian Kemp.

In a statement, the Georgia Democratic party accused Kemp of “embracing extreme policies” ahead of a “brutal primary” he is due to contest later this year.

Kemp faces a challenge from the former Georgia senator David Perdue, who has been endorsed by Donald Trump. The former president cast Kemp aside after his refusal to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the state in the 2020 election.

“Parents and teachers can and do work together to give our children the best education possible, and politicians like Kemp should keep their partisan agendas out of the classroom,” said Max Flugrath, spokesperson for the state Democratic party.