The president of one of West Virginia’s teachers’ unions was approaching to testify about a ‘curriculum transparency’ bill when a majority of delegates voted to halt discussion of the legislation .
Dale Lee, whose testimony never began, still has a stark assessment.
“It’s just going to drive more and more teachers out of the profession,” he said on MetroNews’ “Talkline” today.
House Bill 4011 is called “The Anti-Stereotyping Law”.
The law project would require schools or school systems to publicly post any staff training materials related to issues such as non-discrimination, race or gender. Educational material on these topics should also be publicly displayed. A revised version of the bill removed the requirement to post lesson plans.
Another section of the bill would prohibit schools from adopting stereotypes based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or national origin. The bill specifies that individuals should not be blamed “for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, sex, ethnicity, religion or national origin”.
The House Education Committee spoke about the bill for about an hour and a half, asking questions of other experts, before stopping. A majority of committee members, all Republicans, voted to move the bill forward.
Lee reportedly testified that the bill adds unnecessary bureaucratic chores for teachers and school systems to download the material.
And while the bill does not prevent factual discussion of historical events, Lee fears the practical effect is to make teachers doubt that the free flow of classroom discussion might run counter to the policy. .
“A lot of my best lessons were where we started to go down a road and the kids’ questions took us down a different road. Now, as a teacher, am I going down that road?” Lee asked, president of the West Virginia Education Association.
“Am I in violation of this bill because I haven’t published it before?”
The bill does not provide for punishment for those who might be wrong. Instead, it is presented as a tool for parents and community members to learn what diversity training or lessons regarding race or gender could be used by school systems.
Lee said that kind of transparency already exists through curriculum teams, local school improvement councils, or standards available on the state Department of Education website.
“You can see all the standards taught from K-12. You can do it now,” he said.
Critics of the bill have suggested it could have a chilling effect on discussions of how factors such as gender, race or ethnicity have affected American society.
“We teach children to be critical thinkers. Don’t you agree that it is important for everyone? You have to be able to be a critical thinker,” Lee said.
“It wouldn’t prevent that, but it would say – for example, if I taught something that the parents don’t agree with, they can say I’m breaking the law.”
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) February 4, 2022
Legislatures in at least a dozen states have introduced similar invoices. For example, Republicans in the Michigan Legislature introduced a program transparency bill on Wednesday. In Iowa, lawmakers this week started the exam of a bill that was one of the governor’s priorities.
Leading sponsor in West Virginia, Delegate Chris Pritt, said the legislation is intended to help community members know what is being taught in schools.
“The attempt here is to address some divisive concepts that are taught in West Virginia and across the country,” he said on “Talkline.”
“The basic idea here is that certain ideas are taught about a person being judged by the color of their skin, that certain individuals are superior or inferior based on the color of their skin,” Pritt said.
“That’s what we’re trying to address here. And when certain divisive concepts are going to be discussed, things like non-discrimination, prejudice – if a school is going to start teaching these things, there should be some transparency.
Pritt described some examples of classroom activities, although he provided few details.
“We’re not going to teach our kids that they should be blamed for things they had no control over,” he said. “We can teach historical facts, but we cannot teach that a certain group based on race, gender or ethnicity can be blamed for it.”
.@pritt4thepeople is the main sponsor of HB 4011, which is the anti-stereotyping law. Pritt joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss his intention with this act. LOOK: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/kLgbr5TAis
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) February 4, 2022
Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, also opposed a chilling effect on classroom instruction.
“Teachers should be able to discuss accurate history, present multiple perspectives, and teach students to become critical thinkers and formulate informed points of view. This bill is a political football to siphon off support from public schools and nothing more than a vehicle to divide and distract voters during an election year,” Albert said.
“It does nothing to address the real issues in public education such as teacher shortages or the pandemic-related challenges facing our students.”
The bill then goes to the House Judiciary Committee.
Lee said he would be happy to stand up and speak his mind.
“I hope they ask me to testify before the House Judiciary,” he said, “and I’ll try another chance.”