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Grassroots organizations speak out against “divisive concepts” bill

An identical bill has already passed out of a Senate committee, leaving the full Senate as the last hurdle to reaching Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk.

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Grassroots organizations are speaking out against a bill banning “divisive concepts” that could come before the Senate for final passage in the final days of the legislative session.

The Alabama House of Representatives on March 17 passed HB312, 65-32 after a lengthy debate. The bill would prohibit Alabama and any of its political subdivisions or agencies from promoting or advancing certain concepts regarding race, sex, or religion in certain teaching or training including:

  • That one race, sex, or religion is inherently superior to another race, sex, or religion;
  • That this state or the United States is inherently racist or sexist;
  • That an individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive,  whether consciously or unconsciously;
  • That an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely on the basis of his or her race;
  • That members of one race should attempt to treat others differently solely on the basis of race;
  • That an individual’s moral character is determined solely on the basis of his or her race, sex, or religion;
  •  That an individual, solely by virtue of his or her race, sex, or religion, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, sex, or religion;
  • That any individual should be asked to accept,  acknowledge, affirm, or assent to a sense of guilt,  complicity, or a need to work harder solely on the basis of his or her race or sex;
  •  That meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist

The bill would prohibit the state from teaching or training employees, contractors, teachers, or students to adopt or believe certain concepts regarding race, sex, or religion. In colleges and universities, the concepts would be allowed as part of a larger course, but professors would not be allowed to compel students to assent to topics deemed “divisive.” In public K-12 students, the defined divisive concepts would not be allowed to be taught. 

Any educators in public K-12 schools or public universities and colleges could be terminated if they violate the act. 

“Alabama faces a range of real challenges like poverty, hunger, and educational equity. We’re disappointed that the Legislature is focusing instead on bills that threaten to chill open discussion in classrooms,” said Robyn Hyden, executive director of Alabama Arise. “Open conversation and truth-telling about our state’s history are essential to building an inclusive future and a truly free society.”

During a public hearing on the bill, Oliver said the bill is designed to “prevent activists.” 

“Why do Black activists need to be prevented,” asked Project Say Something Founder Camille Bennett. “We are change-makers and the voice of the people. His comment exposed his motives, right? This bill is not only about schools, it is also meant to silence Black liberation as a whole and specifically activists on the frontlines.”

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The bill was also read for the first time in the Alabama Senate on Thursday and referred to the Senate Governmental Affairs committee. A Senate version of the same bill has already been passed out of committee.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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