Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a series of education bills into law on Thursday, including controversial legislation to ban “divisive concepts” in classrooms.
House Bill 1084, known as the “Protect Students First Act”, defines “divisive concepts” as including such things as the teaching that one race is inherently superior to another, that the United States is fundamentally racist, that individuals, by virtue of their race, bear responsibility for past actions committed by others of the same race, or that they “should feel anguish, guilt or some other form of psychological distress” because of their race. The bill also establishes an oversight committee with the power to ban transgender women and girls from competing on teams that match their gender identity.
The governor also signed House Bill 1178, known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which would prevent the state from infringing on the basic rights of parents “to direct the upbringing and upbringing of [their] Minor child.” These rights include the right to direct the moral and religious education of their children and the right to review all educational materials to be provided to their children.
In addition, Governor Kemp signed Senate Bill 226, which provides a method for parents to complain about offensive material in school libraries and have that material removed, Senate Bill 588, which provides that local board of education meetings to be open to the public, Senate Bill 220, to establish mandatory financial literacy courses for students, House Bill 517, which doubles the tax credit program for organizations of scholarships, and House Bill 385, which allows retired teachers to return to the classroom in high-need areas.
Governor Kemp said the legislation would “put students and parents first by keeping politics awake out of the classroom and out of our ball diamonds.” However, the Georgia Democratic Party held a press conference with parents and teachers after the signing, accusing the governor of “putting politics before the education of Georgian students” in an effort to woo Republican voters. Andrea Young, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia, said, “Georgia has a complex history with race and racism. Students and teachers should be free to develop this story without interference from politicians.