DeKalb school board reluctantly passes divisive concepts policy

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

The DeKalb County Board of Education narrowly approved a policy about resolving complaints about “divisive concepts” after previously postponing the vote.

Board members made it clear at a virtual meeting Wednesday that they didn’t agree with the policy, which is now required by the state Legislature. The new law limits how teachers can talk about race and racism in the classroom.

“I personally do not agree with politics mixing with education,” said board member Diijon DaCosta. “As far as the law that is stated, I disagree with that. But I want to do what is best for our scholars.”

ExploreDeKalb school board postpones divisive concepts policy vote

Four board members — Allyson Gevertz, Anna Hill, Deirdre Pierce and Turner — voted in favor of the policy. DaCosta and Marshall Orson abstained. Joyce Morley, who first objected, was absent from the meeting.

At a meeting last week, the board asked its attorney Clem Doyle to look into what the consequences could be if they didn’t approve the policy. Following up at Wednesday’s session, Doyle said the board could risk losing state funding or its strategic waivers, which allow the district flexibility from state laws in efforts to increase student achievement.

“At the end of the day, it is a requirement that we pass this policy,” board Chair Vickie Turner said Wednesday.

Georgia lawmakers this year approved legislation that limits how teachers can talk about race and racism in the classroom. The law and the DeKalb policy bar teachers from asserting that the United States is fundamentally racist, that one race is superior to another or that individuals should feel guilty because of their race.

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School districts were also required to create a process to review complaints from parents and others who allege those concepts are being mishandled. Complaints start with principals and could make it all the way to the state school board.

Board members considered approving a policy that, rather than outlining an entire process, simply stated the district planned to comply with the state law. But Doyle was not convinced that would meet the expectations set for local districts in the law.

Other metro Atlanta school boards approved policies in compliance with the law over the summer. The statute set an Aug. 1 deadline for school districts.