ATLANTA — Attorneys representing Georgia educators issued an intent to file a lawsuit letter to the Georgia attorney general’s office over the state’s new law that outlaws teaching so-called “divisive concepts” in public schools.
HB 1084, signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on April 28, in part defines divisive concepts as teaching that “one race is inherently superior to another race; the United States of America is fundamentally racist; and an individual, by virtue of his or her race, is inherently or consciously racist or oppressive toward individuals of other races.”
Educators across the state say the new law had led to a lot of confusion and makes it difficult for them to do their jobs.
“As a classroom teacher I am confused and concerned about how this law will impact not only my classroom, but my career,” AP World History teacher Jeff Corkill said. “Like many educators in Georgia, I can’t figure out what I can or can’t teach under the law, and my school district’s administrators don’t seem to understand the law’s prohibitions either.”
Those who oppose the law said the restrictions could dampen any discussions about slavery and important figures in Black history, while limiting students’ ability to receive a complete and accurate education.
However, Kemp said otherwise before signing the bill.
“It ensures all of our state and nation’s history is taught accurately because here in Georgia, our classrooms will not be pawns of those who want to indoctrinate our kids with their partisan political agendas,” Kemp said.
Kemp’s challenger for reelection, Democrat Stacey Abrams, has vowed to repeal the bill and slew of other new education bills if she wins the gubernatorial race Nov. 8.
The intent to file a lawsuit letter was issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center, National Education Association and Georgia Association of Educators, indicating their plans to ask a federal court for preliminary and permanent injunctions on HB 1084 and declare it unconstitutional.
“Efforts to expand our multicultural democracy through public education are being met with frantic efforts in Georgia to censor educators, ban books and desperate measures to suppress teaching the truth about slavery and systemic racism,” GAE General Counsel Mike McGonigle said.
“GAE is Georgia’s oldest professional educator organization. Its founders were formerly enslaved people who established the Georgia Teachers and Educators Association between 1876-1878,” McGonigle continued. “After Black Americans fought their way to liberation, they built schools and taught Black schoolchildren how to read and write, something they knew would expand their freedom. The ‘divisive concepts’ law attempts to erase this history and their voices.”
Supporters of the new law said it prevents racial division among students in classrooms.
“We can teach U.S. history, the good, bad and the ugly without dividing children along racial lines,” said Georgia Sen. Butch Miller, who carried the bill in the Senate. “(Critical race theory) is wrong and it views American history through a racial sense. It’s a filter that focuses on victimhood, not triumph. We don’t defeat racism with racism....we must teach patriotism, that America’s good, though not perfect. “
The law requires local school boards to develop a complaint resolution process to follow by Aug. 1 for students, parents or other school staff to report alleged teachings of divisive concepts.
Anyone aggrieved by a final decision by a principal can appeal to the State Board of Education, which upon its determination can suspend school waivers if its recommended corrective action plan is not implemented at the school within 30 days.
A spokesperson for Georgia Attorney General Office said the office has received the letter but decline to provide further comment.
“The letter serves as notice of your duty to preserve all electronically stored information, copies and backups as defined by Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, along with any physical papers, files, or media related to the enactment and enforcement of (HB 1084),” the Nov. 4 letter states. “The deletion and/or destruction of any of the foregoing—including but not limited to electronic communications, such as emails, memoranda, notes and the like—is prohibited by law, and the undersigned will seek any and all legal remedies to address any such destruction of evidence.”
According to Education Week, 42 states have introduced bills or taken actions that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism since January 2021.
Efforts are still underway in Alabama where lawmakers who championed such a bill this session plan to reintroduce the measure (HB 312) in the upcoming legislative session. It passed in the House after an amendment was approved adding language that the bill should not be “construed to prohibit the teaching of topics of historical events in a historically accurate context.” It never made it to a Senate vote before the end of the session.