At the start of the school year, teachers will typically review classroom rules, supply lists, and, if teaching older children, a schedule with their students.
This school year, educators must also deal with Georgia’s Divisional Concepts Law recently enactedwhich prohibits teachers from bringing their personal and political beliefs into a classroom.
Passed in April, the legislation prohibits educators from adopting comments that imply that one race is superior to another or that the United States is an inherently racist country, among other topics related to race and gender.
School districts have discretion to enforce the law in terms of reporting complaints and procedures.
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“We will now work with our curriculum and instruction team, and others to really prepare teacher training to provide support,” said Bernadette Ball-Oliver, associate superintendent of secondary school system governance. public of Savannah-Chatham County.
“So knowing that this is new, we are still formulating these plans, but making sure that we have an overall plan in place that will respond to this and provide support for our teachers and leaders.” Ball-Oliver said part of that plan includes ongoing training with teachers on how to handle race and gender issues in their classrooms.
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How the Savannah Public School District will handle divisive concepts was discussed at a July 14 school board workshop, with district legal counsel, attorney Brian Dennison, presenting a draft of the district’s plan.
Several council members expressed concerns about how the law would affect English and social studies teachers whose subjects often include such “dividing concepts”.
“I don’t know how you teach reconstruction, Jim Crow laws… red line, sunset laws that were based on law, identified by law and no one feeling there’s a goatee racial emissary,” District 2 Representative Dionne Hoskins Brown said at the workshop. “Even if you say ‘Here’s the book,’ there are elements in this book that indicate our national history is problematic.”
During the workshop, Dennison said the law gives the district some leeway as to who can report a concern about divisive concepts and what the disciplinary process would be.
For the complaint process, the school district uses the language model provided by the Georgia School Board Association to establish its guidelines on divisive concepts.
Once enacted, only parents whose child or children attend the school in which the divisive concept incident occurred can file a complaint with that school’s principal, Hetager said.
“It doesn’t prohibit educationally divisive conceptual conversation,” he said, adding that school district policies already cover what the law directs school districts to do in regards to concerns anti-discrimination policies and a complaints process.
“Some of them (Georgia law) are redundant, but they provide a definition of divisive concepts.”
Superintendent Ann Levett said the district will be talking to teachers now that it’s signed into law and what it means.
“We have few instances where teachers deliberately say something that offends someone else,” she said at the July school board workshop. “I believe there are smart teachers who pay attention to us and share their concerns with us.”
The school board is expected to vote on the policy at its August 10 meeting.
Raisa is a watchdog and investigative reporter for The Savannah Morning News. Contact her at [email protected]