North Carolina Senate votes to ban critical race theory concepts in schools

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a strong proponent of the measure, launched a task force to examine indoctrination in the state's schools.
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North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper
Jeff Hahne / Contributor/ Getty

The North Carolina Senate has approved legislation that prohibits K-12 schools from promoting more than a dozen concepts about racism and discrimination.

The legislation bans school districts from pushing critical race theory, which is centered around the idea that race is a social construct used to oppress people of color. The theory, developed by legal scholars in the late 1970s and 1980s, concludes racism in America is systemic.

Backers of the bill, which passed the Senate, 25-17, on Thursday, said the theory and liberal ideologies are being "indoctrinated" at public schools. Democrats in the Senate said the measure would censor how history is taught in schools.

"Students must not be forced to adopt an ideology that is separate and distinct from history; an ideology that promotes 'present discrimination' – so long as it's against the right people – as 'antiracist, ' " Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said.

Critical race theory gained new notoriety in response to the 1619 Project, a New York Times multimedia piece that connects slavery to capitalism. The House proposal came about after Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools assigned a summer reading book for students that suggests society is passively racist.

House Bill 324 lists 13 concepts educators would be banned from promoting in public schools. The legislation prohibits schools from teaching race superiority and that people and the country are inherently racist or sexist. It blocks schools from teaching students to stereotype others as morally corrupt or prejudice based on skin color or sex.

The measure also would stop schools from making students "feel guilt or anguish" because of their race, sex or actions of others in the past. It blocks schools from encouraging the idea that America was created by a certain subgroup to oppress others and bans schools from promoting overthrowing the U.S. government and that the rule of law does not exist.

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a strong proponent of the measure, launched a task force to examine indoctrination in the state's schools. He released a report Tuesday, with 506 statements from teachers and parents alleging incidents of indoctrination in schools. Teachers and students reported being taught or trained that Black people are oppressed and white people are privileged.

Democrats argued that the reports, although inappropriate, were not indoctrination.

"We ought to be teaching anti-racism because the concept is that you're no better than me, and our children have to learn that because we've messed up," longtime educator Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, said. "We've screwed this place up to make little children, who see the hearts of teachers, who care about them, rather than their skin color. They see teachers who care about them. These teachers are not indoctrinating. That's a bunch of political lies."

HB 324 directs teachers and other school staff to "employ teaching methods and procedures that ... respect the dignity of others, acknowledge the right of others to express differing opinions and foster and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry and instruction and freedom of speech and association."

School districts would be required to provide at least 30 days' notice to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the public before teaching or discussing banned concepts. They also must notify the department if they invite a speaker or trainer to schools that have spoken about the concepts in the past.

The North Carolina House approved its version of HB 324, 66-40, on May 15, but it now must approve the new concepts the Senate added to the bill.