The Gainesville City school board on Monday approved by a majority vote a policy that limits what teachers can say about race in the classroom, following the “divisive concepts” law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in April, which requires local school boards to adopt their own policies.
All board members voted in favor of the policy except Willie Mitchell, the only Black member of the board. Mitchell, who has been on the board for more than 30 years, opposed the policy for several reasons, though some were not entirely clear.
He told The Times after the meeting that one reason he voted against the policy is that he fears it may muffle teachers by limiting what they can say about race and history in the classroom.
“I’m totally against the policy,” Mitchell told his fellow board members. “It just don’t sit right with me.”
He also said the phrase “divisive concepts” is a cloak for “critical race theory,” a once-obscure academic theory that emerged in the late 1970s as a legal framework for analyzing laws related to race.
Before Kemp signed the bill into law, legislators branded it as an effort to ban critical race theory in schools, though the bill itself doesn’t mention the theory.
“I don’t like the law personally,” board chairman Andy Stewart said to Mitchell. “But I think if you read the policy, it's giving our teachers and principals, administrators guidelines to go (on) if someone brings up one of these issues.”
Superintendent Jeremy Williams said they’ve never had any complaints related to the divisive concepts or critical race theory.
The state law, HB 1084, requires local school boards to adopt their own policies, and both Gainesville and Hall County’s policies are taken almost verbatim from the state law.
The policy bars the teaching of nine “divisive concepts” related to race, such as teaching students that one race is inherently superior to another, or that the United States is fundamentally racist.
It also establishes a complaint resolution process. If a parent submits a complaint, for example, the school system would have 10 days to decide whether a violation occurred.