Kentucky lawmaker pre-files bill targeting class instruction on race, sex and religion

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 12:58 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A bill pre-filed Tuesday in the Kentucky General Assembly could limit instruction and discussion related to race, sex, and religion in public schools.

Rep. Joseph Fischer, R-Fort Thomas, sponsored House Bill Request 60, which would prohibit Kentucky schools from using the curriculum or supplemental instructional materials that promote the idea that “one race is inherently superior to another race or sex.”

The bill also would prohibit the teaching that an individual “is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously” because of their race or that an “individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment” because of their race.

Teaching that the United States is “fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist” or “promoting or advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government” would be disallowed under the legislation, along with other provisions.

The bill was filed months before Kentucky’s next legislative session in January 2022. It comes amid a nationwide debate about the history of race in America and how to teach it, with many divided on concepts like critical race theory or The New York Times1619 project.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear called the legislation “concerning” when asked to give his first impression of the bill following his COVID briefing on Tuesday.

“I think once you start legislating what can and can’t be taught in schools, especially in the framework of politics, it gets really dangerous,” the governor said. “I think our schools should be providing the best education for our children, they should be able to have open and real dialogue and this idea that we would try to take something like this or almost anything and because of politics or things going on the country legislate exactly what will be taught in schools is more than a little concerning to me.”

However, some supporters argue that classroom conversations on race can be divisive.

“I think it’s extremely divisive,” one viewer told WAVE 3 News. “I think the goal since Martin Luther King Jr. was to get people to be judged on their character, not the amount of melanin in their skin. We’re putting things on kids that they have no responsibility for.”

Jackie McGranahan, a policy strategist with the ACLU of Kentucky, denounced Fischer’s legislation as virtue signaling.

“I think most Kentuckians, including most white Kentuckians, understand that not everyone has a fair chance to succeed,” she said. “Black Kentuckians, LGBTQ Kentuckians and poor white Kentuckians deserve an equal playing field and we should be having conversations about this in schools. I trust my kids and their teachers to have honest conversations about tough topics.”

If Fischer’s bill becomes a Kentucky law, a citizen would be able to file a complaint with Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office if they believe a school is in violation. If a school violates the law, it will be fined $5,000 each day until it is resolved.

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