Metro Atlanta students protest lawmakers’ race bills at Georgia Capitol

Atlanta high school students gather outside the Georgia Capitol on Feb. 25, 2022, to protest legislation that would control classroom discussions about race. (STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

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Atlanta high school students gather outside the Georgia Capitol on Feb. 25, 2022, to protest legislation that would control classroom discussions about race. (STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Scores of metro Atlanta teens gathered outside the state Capitol on Friday to protest legislation that would limit the way race is discussed in classrooms.

The teenagers had a message for the Republican lawmakers behind the bills.

“Did you know that at 17-and-a-half you can register to vote,” said Vinessa Taylor, 17, a Decatur High School senior. “If they do not listen to us now, they will hear us in November.”

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Decatur High School student Yana Batra talks to the crowd near the Capitol on to protest legislation that would control classroom discussions about race Feb. 25, 2022. (STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Decatur High School student Yana Batra talks to the crowd near the Capitol on to protest legislation that would control classroom discussions about race Feb. 25, 2022.  (STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Combined ShapeCaption
Decatur High School student Yana Batra talks to the crowd near the Capitol on to protest legislation that would control classroom discussions about race Feb. 25, 2022. (STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

An estimated 200 students gathered at Liberty Plaza.

Rep. Will Wade, R-Dawsonville, said at a legislative hearing this week that his House Bill 1084 would not stop teachers from discussing slavery or the civil rights movement. But teachers shouldn’t tell students that they should feel “anguish” because of their race, his bill says.

His explanation to fellow lawmakers: “We do not want to divide students against each other and create any more anguish or distress in our student’s lives.”

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Decatur High School student Katie Guenthner talks to the crowd during a protest outside the Capitol. Students were protesting Georgia bills that would control classroom discussions about race. (STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Decatur High School student Katie Guenthner talks to the crowd during a protest outside the Capitol. Students were protesting Georgia bills that would control classroom discussions about race. (STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Combined ShapeCaption
Decatur High School student Katie Guenthner talks to the crowd during a protest outside the Capitol. Students were protesting Georgia bills that would control classroom discussions about race. (STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

On Friday, Katie Guenthner, 17, told the crowd that Wade’s bill would “censor our speech and limit our education.” The Decatur High senior said she has been accepted to the University of Georgia and noted that a Senate bill would apply these prohibitions to higher education.

“Any discussion about race that could perceivably offend anyone would be banned,” she said. “Imagine what that would do to the quality of education of Georgia’s universities. Professors and students would live in fear of saying the wrong things, stymying free thought and new ideas.”

The students cheered when Yana Batra, 17, another Decatur High student, asked if they thought it was their right and responsibility to learn about racism in classrooms.

“Nearly two-thirds of us all across the state are students of color,” she said. “We face racism in America every day. We want our white peers to learn about it, and so do they.”

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Atlanta high school students gather outside the Georgia Capitol on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, to protest legislation that would control classroom discussions about race. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Atlanta high school students gather outside the Georgia Capitol on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, to protest legislation that would control classroom discussions about race. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta high school students gather outside the Georgia Capitol on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, to protest legislation that would control classroom discussions about race. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer