By Rebecca Gaunt
The Southern Poverty Law Center, National Education Association, and the Georgia Association of Educators informed the state of Georgia Friday that they are filing a lawsuit over the 2022 divisive concepts law.
The letter notifying the Georgia attorney general’s office of the intent to file a lawsuit is available on the SPLC website. The plaintiffs say the law, which went into effect July 1, violates the constitutional rights of students and teachers. They are seeking “both preliminary and permanent injunctions that restrain principals, school districts, and other government officials and entities from enforcing O.C.G.A. §20- 1-11. 1 Furthermore, the plaintiffs will ask a court to declare O.C.G.A. §20-1-11 unconstitutional.”
Proponents say it doesn’t inhibit the teaching of history, only the sharing of personal political views of teachers. Opponents say it could harm classroom discussions on topics such as slavery and the Holocaust and is creating too much uncertainty over what is allowed to be taught.
“As a classroom teacher I am confused and concerned about how this law will impact not only my classroom, but my career,” said AP World History Teacher Jeff Corkill. “Like many educators in Georgia, I can’t figure out what I can or can’t teach under the law, and my school district’s administrators don’t seem to understand the law’s prohibitions either.”
The bill bans nine “divisive” concepts about race using language from an executive order former President Donald Trump issued in 2020. President Joe Biden repealed the EO in 2021.
The bill was passed in response to the national debate over critical race theory in schools (CRT).
“Efforts to expand our multicultural democracy through public education are being met with frantic efforts in Georgia to censor educators, ban books, and desperate measures to suppress teaching the National Education Association, and the Georgia Association of Educatorstruth about slavery and systemic racism,” said GAE General Counsel Mike McGonigle in a news release. “GAE is Georgia’s oldest professional educator organization. Its founders were formerly enslaved people who established the Georgia Teachers and Educators Association between 1876-1878. After Black Americans fought their way to liberation, they built schools and taught Black schoolchildren how to read and write, something they knew would expand their freedom. The ‘divisive concepts’ law attempts to erase this history and their voices.”
Sponsored by state Rep. William Wade (R-Dawsonville), it also included a last minute provision to create an athletics oversight committee and affirmed the Georgia High School Association’s ability to make decisions about youth transgender athletes. GHSA immediately moved to require students to play on teams based on the sex on their birth certificate.
At the April bill signing ceremony, Kemp said, “…we put students and parents first by keeping woke politics out of the classroom and off our ballfields.”
The bill can be read in full here.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.