APS to add protections for teachers facing divisive concepts complaints

Atlanta Public Schools headquarters at 130 Trinity Ave. SW in downtown Atlanta.  BOB ANDRES  /AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Atlanta Public Schools headquarters at 130 Trinity Ave. SW in downtown Atlanta. BOB ANDRES /AJC FILE PHOTO

Atlanta Public Schools officials want to ensure teachers have the explicit right to defend themselves if they’re accused of improperly teaching about race and other divisive concepts.

The board of education is in the process of adopting a policy that details how APS will respond if a parent alleges that a teacher has violated a new state law that prohibits classroom assertions that the nation is fundamentally racist, that one race is superior and other generalities.

House Bill 1084, which APS officials opposed, requires school systems to create a complaint resolution process for any alleged violations.

Earlier this month, the school board gave preliminary approval to the policy. On Thursday, the school board’s policy committee added due process language to the draft, which is expected to go to the full board for a final vote next month.

Board member Cynthia Briscoe Brown, who chairs the policy committee, said the APS version is aimed at protecting teachers’ free speech rights as they present “concepts which we believe our students need to be able to wrestle with and understand and develop their own opinions about.”

“We think that’s healthy, and we encourage our students and our staff to do so,” she said, during the meeting.

The proposed policy still pulls from suggested language released months ago by the State Board of Education that describes the timeline schools have to respond to complaints and the process for investigating them.

The revised APS language clearly states that teachers and staff members accused of wrongdoing will be notified by the principal about the complaint by the next business day.

It also states that accused educators “will have the right to present a defense to the complaint, testify on their own behalf, and present witnesses to the alleged incident.”

Briscoe Brown said the language is similar to the due process protections afforded to teachers during other types of investigations.

Other metro Atlanta school boards, including those in DeKalb and Fulton counties, already approved their policies in response to the new law.