NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee House Republicans voted in favor of an amendment to a bill that would penalize school systems in which teachers cover certain aspects of racism.
The new rule would prohibit teachers to use any material that promotes concepts such as one race being superior to another, that a person might be somehow responsible for actions committed by members of the same race in the past and that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.
The bill's sponsor, Oak Ridge Republican Rep. John Ragan, said it's intended to make it so that both sides of history are taught in schools.
"The idea behind this in saying that it's impartially presented or should be, it is to make it truly educational as in not favoring one side or the other," said Ragan.
Opponents of the measure said they believe it's an attempt to stop conversations about systemic racism.
"How do we get to a conversation about Martin Luther King Jr., if we don't talk about those systems that he was fighting against," said Nashville Democrat Rep. Harold Love Jr. "How do we get to a conversation about John Lewis unless we talk about what he endured trying to secure the right to vote."
Opponents also said they believe the bill will keep teachers from covering the topic at all for fear their school may lose funding because of it. The bill allows the commissioner to withhold funding from schools found in violation of the rule.
Rep. Ragan said the bill doesn't even mention systemic racism.
"This bill does not address systemic racism per se," said Ragan. "It addresses Tennessee teaching standards. Having reviewed those standards most recently, just this morning before I came to committee, the term systemic racism is not mentioned in any of the standards that I read all the way from K-12. This bill does not mention."