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Arkansas House Committee Advances Bill On Teaching About Racism In Schools

Arkansas House

A bill that would limit teaching certain ideas concerning racism has passed an Arkansas House committee after going through an amendment process.

Under House Bill 1761, curricula, reading materials and other forms of instruction or activities in public and open-enrollment charter schools in the state shall not express or teach a list of ideas involving race such as: any race or ethnicity is superior to any other or that the United States, as a nation, is systemically racist.

Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, who pulled the legislation down last week in order to collaborate with non-white legislators on the language and amend it, said he made many concessions.

However, Lowery said he kept the idea that the U.S. is systemically racist on the list of things that cannot be taught, despite others wanting it removed.

"If we believe that America is systemically racist, then we have to believe that each and every element, every element, not just localized and not just a part, but every element of the system, the United States’ system, the government’s system is inherently racist, and I don’t believe that that is something that should be taught in our schools," Lowery said.

The bill does not create a system for strict enforcement, instead saying each school may promote policies that implement these restrictions and may also "ensure that all parents and legal guardians of public-school students are advised of the policies."

Rep. Megan Godfrey, D-Springdale, spoke on the bill, saying while she appreciates Lowery working with other lawmakers to make the bill more agreeable, she still had concerns over the disallowing of teaching that the U.S. as a nation is systemically racist, and mentioned that social studies or history classes may run into problems with this.

"I think it is so important that we look, not to name call the United States as racist, but to really be critical about some of those kind of initial systematic foundations of our nations that have had structural impacts on individuals and communities," Godfrey said.

The bill now goes to the House for a full vote.