Bibb Board of Education: ‘I’m sorry we have to pass this policy’

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Bibb County Board of Education Member Juawn Jackson introduces a policy the state requires the board to adopt on so-called “divisive concepts.”

The Bibb County Board of Education on Thursday adopted a policy as mandated by a new state law that effectively makes talking about American history and racism a daunting topic for teachers to discuss in schools.

The adoption of the policy is required by the “Protect Students First Act,” which took effect July 1. The act bans so-called “divisive concepts” in school curricula, including the idea that America is “fundamentally racist” and that “one race is inherently superior to another race.”

The state gave school boards until August 1 to adopt a policy detailing how each district will handle complaints alleging violations of the law.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill in April and touted the new law as an action to “put students and parents first by keeping woke politics out of the classroom and off our ballfields,” according to a Georgia Recorder article.

Board member Juawn Jackson said the only reason the board even considered adopting the policy is because it was required to do so by the state, “not because the Bibb County School District says that we believe that this was important.”

Board member Daryl Morton described the new law as “a solution in search of a problem” and said he has never had to deal with the issue in his seven and a half years on the board.

“Quite frankly, I’m sorry we have to do this,” Morton said. “I’m sorry we have to pass this policy, but it’s what the law requires us to do.”

Morton said the law is politically motivated and serves to create “a public perception that there’s some problem” regarding teachers indoctrinating students with their own personal beliefs when that problem doesn’t exist here.

Morton also assured teachers the board knows they have increased workloads and do their best to treat each student fairly.

“When you go through all the things that teachers have to do, there’s no time for this,” Morton said. “It is my sincere hope we will never have to deal with this.”

The board considered two versions of the policy and adopted the less specific one. One contained definitions of all nine “divisive concepts” and the other did not.

Superintendent Dan Sims said nothing changes as far as the existing expectation of teachers not to impose their personal views during instruction.

The version of the policy the board chose, “addresses this whole complaint resolution process in such a way that maintains the dignity of what happens inside the classroom,” Sims said. “We are aware of the definitions and we will not ignore them, but at least it doesn’t become something that’s so policy driven and places too much emphasis on what teachers are expected to do and not do.”

The board approved the version of the policy without definitions in a 7-1 vote. Board President Thelma Dillard voted against it.

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email her at [email protected]