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Gov. Brian Kemp visits Forsyth County to sign education bills on parental rights, book bans, curriculum
Protestors gather outside, speak out against controversial bills
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Gov. Brian Kemp speaks to a crowd before signing a group of state education bills at the Forsyth County Arts and Learning Center on Thursday, April 28. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp visited the Forsyth County Arts and Learning Center on Thursday, April 28, to sign into law a package of education bills dealing with parental rights, media center book removals and “divisive” curriculums.

“Today we are here at the [FoCAL Center] to sign legislation that puts our children ahead of partisan agendas, gets parents back in charge of their kids’ education and expands school choice for those who need it the most,” Kemp said.

Officials from throughout the county and state joined Kemp for the signing of these bills, many of which have been largely controversial as debates surrounding school curriculums and media center book removals continue in Forsyth and across the state and nation.

The package of education bills Kemp signed included the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which includes an outlined process for parents to provide input into what their children will be learning in school. Kemp said this provides more transparency for parents to know exactly what is going on in the classroom.

Under the law, parents have the right to review classroom curriculum and instructional material during the first two weeks of every nine-week grading period.

Kemp also signed Senate Bill 1084, which bans the teaching of “divisive concepts” in the classroom. Under this bill, teachers in the state will not be allowed to teach history in a way that makes a student feel guilty or either superior or inferior because of race.

“It ensures all of our state and nation’s history is taught accurately because, here in Georgia, our classrooms will not be pawns to those who indoctrinate our kids with their partisan political agendas,” Kemp said.

Alongside this, SB 1084 also gives the Georgia High School Association the authority to prohibit transgender students from participating in girls’ sports. While the bill does not outright ban students from participating, it allows the GHSA to create its own policy on the matter.

“As parents of three daughters, [my wife] Marty and I want every young girl in this state to have every opportunity to succeed in the sport that they love,” Kemp told the crowd.

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Gov. Brian Kemp signs one of several controversial education bills into law at the Forsyth County Arts and Learning Center on Thursday, April 28, 2022. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

He also signed Senate Bill 226, which will expedite the process for removing media center books considered inappropriate for schools.

Principals will now have seven business days to decide on whether to remove challenged books and 10 days to inform the person who challenges the book about the decision. Local school boards will be given 30 days to decide on any appeals.

Kemp signed four other bills that will provide more transparency at school board meetings, double tax credit programs for scholarship organizations, strengthen the quality of civic education and allow retired teachers to return to the classroom full-time in high needs areas.

“Protecting the teaching of freedom, liberty, opportunity and the American dream in the classroom should not be controversial,” Kemp said. “Making sure parents have the ultimate say in their child’s education should not be controversial.”

“We were not elected by the people of this state to shy away from doing what some may call controversial because the bills we are signing into law today are about doing the right thing,” he continued. “And as long as my family and I have the honor to serve you, we’re going to continue to put students and parents first in the great state of Georgia.”

Before the start of the event, Forsyth County Board of Education Chairman Wes McCall thanked Kemp and his wife for coming to the county for the second time the last few months.

“[This] is a testament to the teamwork that occurs between Forsyth County Schools and our state government,” McCall said.

He spoke to the crowd about FCS and its accomplishments in the county and state, earning the highest graduation rate, SAT scores, ACT scores and financial efficiency rating in metro Atlanta and among large districts in the state.

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Gov. Brian Kemp speaks to a crowd before signing a group of education bills at the Forsyth County Arts and Learning Center on Thursday, April 28, 2022. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Some in community protest bill signing

As Kemp and McCall spoke to the crowd, a group of protestors gathered outside of the FoCAL Center, holding up signs that read, “No banning books,” and “Stand up for the truth.”

After the event was over, the group, made up of parents and Democratic candidates running for local elections, moved across the street to the Dobbs Creek Recreation Center for a press conference where they spoke out against several of the bills and Kemp’s approval.

“For generations, parents and teachers have worked together to ensure children are prepared for the future, but by signing these bills today, Brian Kemp is attacking the important partnership between parents and educators,” said Angie Darnell, a Forsyth County parent and member of the Forsyth Coalition for Education.

Through bills such as the Parents’ Bill of Right, Darnell said Kemp and other conservative leaders in the state have pitted parents against teachers who work hard to ensure students have access to a quality education and classroom.

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Angie Darnell, a Forsyth County parent and member of the Forsyth Coalition for Education, speaks out against the education bills signed by Gov. Kemp at Dobbs Creek Park right after the signing event Thursday morning. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Amanda Lee, an educator, parent and president-elect with the Georgia Library Media Association, said that these bills will also limit students’ access to books and materials they can relate to in the school media centers.

Many parents and community members in Forsyth have expressed concern over the last several months that media center book removals for explicit or obscene content could lead to the removal of other books, especially as some in the community have begun targeting books that discuss race or LGBTQ topics.

“It serves as a reminder to all whose stories are valued and whose stories are deemed inappropriate,” Lee said.

Elaine Padgett said these bills and education debates are what led her to run on the Democratic ticket for the Forsyth County Board of Education District 5 seat in this year’s general election. As a parent herself, she worries these bills will also hinder teachers’ ability to continue with lesson plans in the classroom.

“The bills Kemp signed today are designed to make teachers question everything they’re teaching, even if it’s factual,” Padgett said. “It makes them fear someone might disagree and report them. These bills send a message to teachers that they’re no longer trusted to teach a curriculum that has been part of their lesson plans for years.”

“It’s government censorship,” she continued. “Plain and simple.”

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Amanda Lee, an educator, parent and president-elect with the Georgia Library Media Association, says to a crowd that she believes the bills Gov. Brain Kemp signed will limit students' access to books in their school media centers. - photo by Sabrina Kerns
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Protestors hold up signs at a press conference held directly after Gov. Brian Kemp's signing event at Forsyth County Arts and Learning Center. - photo by Sabrina Kerns
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Elaine Padgett, a Democratic candidate for the Forsyth County Board of Education District 5 seat, speaks at a press conference, saying the bills Gov. Brian Kemp signed on Thursday will likely limit teachers' abilities to continue with classroom lesson plans used for years. - photo by Sabrina Kerns