North Dakota House Introduces Bill That Would Ban Critical Race Theory In K-12 Schools – InForum

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BISMARCK — The North Dakota House of Representatives on Thursday (November 11) approved a bill that would ban the teaching of critical race theory, with a lawmaker describing it as “poison” seeping into the minds of students from kindergarten to 12th grade statewide.

After a 76-16 vote in the House, the bill will now go to the Senate for consideration. If passed by senators and signed by the governor, the bill would ban the teaching of critical race theory, an academic framework that has become a hot topic for conservative pundits across the country, in K-12 schools.

Some lawmakers have argued that the bill’s advancement was the result of a targeted political campaign aimed at bolstering heated reactions and controlling conversations about race in the United States.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, defines critical race theory as “the theory that racism is not merely the product of learned individual prejudice or prejudice, but that racism is systematically embedded in American society and the American legal system to facilitate racial inequality.”

Lawmakers have acknowledged that critical race theory is not taught in North Dakota public schools, but some like Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, have said they want to eliminate it now because they heard parents say it was taught “in a secret way.”

“Critical Race Theory is not about specific historical incidents. It is about teaching children that the socio-economic structures we have in place in the United States are specifically designed and implemented to keep people belonging to minority races,” Becker said. “It’s inherently bad.”

The term “critical race theory” is over 40 years old, although the researchers who coined the term say the way the theory is discussed today bears no resemblance to their original definition. The theory taught in college courses assumes that racism is still embedded in American institutions and that the repercussions of slavery and Jim Crow still disproportionately affect black people and other people of color.

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a professor at UCLA Law School and Columbia Law School, is one of the scholars credited with coining the term.

She told the New York Times

earlier this year, Critical Race Theory is “a way of seeing, witnessing, accounting for, tracing, and analyzing the ways in which race is produced.”

At least 12 states, including Montana and South Dakota, have taken state-level action or passed legislation to restrict the teaching of critical race theory, according to a

analysis by Education Week.

These bills explicitly name critical race theory or restrict how teachers discuss racism and sexism.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota is among the groups opposing

to the proposed ban on critical race theory in the state

.

“By clearly targeting discussion related to critical race theory…it is natural that many would interpret a ban on ‘critical race theory’ to mean a ban on discussing or raising the issue of race in the classroom,” said Libby Skarin, campaigns director for the ACLU of North Dakota, in written testimony. “This ambiguity will inevitably lead to a chilling effect on speaking, creating an environment in which teachers in North Dakota will be afraid to mention race in any context.”

Screenshot via North Dakota Legislative Assembly

The bill was widely supported by conservative state representatives, with only two Republicans, Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo, and Rep. George Keizer, R-Bismarck, voting against.

Roers Jones urged colleagues to oppose the bill on Thursday, saying the special session was not the time to consider a critical race theory bill and that lawmakers should make a bigger effort concerted to understand how critical race theory exists in schools, if at all, before they decide to ban it.

“I challenge each of you to think in your mind, ‘What is critical race theory?’ Can you define it, and what question, what subjects would we be prohibited from teaching?” Roers Jones said on the floor of the House.

Although the theory was created more than 40 years ago, the debate in many states today stems from conservative activist Christopher Rufo. Rufo

said he was worried

about how some city governments taught their employees diversity training and saw critical race theory as an ideal way for conservatives to organize against this kind of teaching.

He made frequent appearances on Fox News stating that institutions, including K-12 schools, teach students that white people are racist and that the United States is evil, which is widely recognized as not being a real understanding of critical race theory.

“It has absolutely no place in our curriculum as a subject or subject,” R-New Town Rep. Terry Jones said Thursday. “I wouldn’t feed my children poison, and I don’t want our teachers feeding our students, my constituents, my family, and my friends poison. And that’s all race theory is.”

The bill presented by the House does not provide any sanctions for teachers who may break the law. It is unclear whether teaching an explicitly racist public policy, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited all immigration of Chinese workers to the United States, would violate the law.

In September 2020, former President Donald Trump signed

an executive order

prohibiting federal agencies from training employees that the United States was inherently racist or that one race was superior to another. President Joe Biden later reversed that executive order.

“By hiding these issues from our students, we are not preparing them for life in the world,” Roers Jones said Thursday.

Readers can contact Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America staff member, at [email protected]

Screenshot of voting CRT.png

Screenshot via North Dakota Legislative Assembly

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