Atlanta school board: Georgia lawmakers’ bills on race stifle teachers

The Atlanta Board of Education on Monday approved a resolution opposing race bills that the board says would stifle teachers. (Hyosub Shin / AJC file photo)



The Atlanta Board of Education on Monday approved a resolution opposing race bills that the board says would stifle teachers. (Hyosub Shin / AJC file photo)

Atlanta school board members slammed a bill aimed at limiting how race is discussed in Georgia classrooms, saying it would silence teachers and stir division.

The board on Monday voted to formally oppose House Bill 888 and other legislative proposals that they say “stifle classroom instruction and are solutions in search of a problem.”

This legislative session, state Republican lawmakers have filed at least four bills focused on how race is taught in schools.

”These bills were introduced to appeal to our cynical instincts and fears instead of challenging us to address the true complexities of our nation’s collective story,” the resolution states. “The proposed legislation lays a path for a slippery slope of intrusion into the classroom which counters our state’s long-established practice of respecting local control in education.”

HB 888 would bar curriculum that could be considered racially discriminatory and prohibit teaching that the United States “is a systemically racist country.” It would require schools to investigate complaints, and it would impose financial penalties on districts that violate the bill’s many prohibitions.

More than 70% of Atlanta Public Schools’ nearly 50,000 students are Black.

The district has a history of taking politically progressive stances. In 2020, the board issued a statement on police brutality that called for the dismantling of a racist system that dates back more than 400 years.

APS also launched a Center for Equity and Social Justice and hired the district’s first chief equity and social justice officer.

In some Georgia school systems, parents have filled board of education meetings decrying “critical race theory,” which is also denounced by many GOP lawmakers. CRT is a decades-old concept used typically in higher education to examine how racism has shaped society.

APS officials previously have said that while critical race theory is not taught in Atlanta classrooms, it’s important for students to have deep conversations about race and racism.

The board’s just approved resolution makes similar points.

“Educators must be allowed to teach in a way that allows our students to see the beauty and blind spots of our democracy,” it states.

Erica Long, the district’s senior policy and governmental affairs adviser, said she’s monitoring numerous Georgia bills that focus on hot-button, cultural issues.

“What’s troubling about these bills is that they really step into the relationship between the school, the teacher and the community and in many cases create an adversarial environment,” she told the board.

Board Chair Eshé Collins, a former teacher, said educators need the freedom to connect textbooks and materials to experiences, something the curriculum doesn’t always do.

“I think it’s very important for us to protect that,” she said.