The Forsyth County Board of Education discussed a proposed policy to allow parents and school staff to file complaints about the teaching of “divisive concepts” in their schools at its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 21.
This policy draft comes after Gov. Brian Kemp’s signing of HB 1084, also known as the Protect Students First Act, which will go into effect on Friday, July 1. Under the new law, teachers in the state will not be allowed to teach curriculums in a way that makes students feel guilty or inferior based on their race.
Lee Anne Rice, associate superintendent of Teaching and Learning for Forsyth County Schools, presented the proposed policy to the board, noting that the district must adopt a policy defining a divisive concepts complaint resolution process by Aug. 1.
“Our policy outlines the definitions of divisive concepts, what those concepts mean and what they entail,” Rice said. “This was taken directly from the law.”
Under the definitions provided, divisive concepts include the teaching that:
• One race is inherently superior to another race;
• The U.S. is fundamentally racist;
• n individual, by virtue of his or her race, is inherently or consciously racist or oppressive toward individuals of other races;
• An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race;
• An individual’s moral character is inherently determined by his or her race;
• An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race, bears individual responsibility for actions committed in the past by other individuals of the same race;
• An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race, should feel anguish, guilt, or any other form of psychological distress;
• Performance-based advancement or the recognition and appreciation of character traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or have been advocated for by individuals of a particular race to oppress individuals of another race;
• Or any other form of race scapegoating or race stereotyping.
In the second section of the proposed policy, the requirements of the new law are outlined, emphasizing that mutual respect and tolerance should be taught and encouraged among students and staff at every school.
Some of the other requirements note that the policy should not be used to limit classroom discussions around divisive concepts and curriculums when done in a “professionally and academically appropriate manner.”
The last section of the draft lays out the full process in which parents, school employees and students over the age of 18 can file a complaint against those they believe have violated the policy.
To begin this process, a complaint has to be submitted to the principal of the school where the alleged violation happened. Then, the principal has five school days to review the complaint and take the first steps to investigate the issue.
After 10 school days, the principal must inform the individual who submitted the complaint if there was a violation of the policy and, if there was, what steps will be taken to correct the issue. In another three school days, the principal must provide the complainant with a written summary outlining the violations and any steps taken.
According to the draft policy, any decisions made by school principals will be reviewed by the district superintendent, and if the superintendent provides a decision, it can also be reviewed by the Forsyth County Board of Education.
If complainants go through the full process and disagree with any decision made by the local BOE, they can then appeal to the state board of education for a separate hearing.
Rice said the proposed process was based on two model policies presented by the state BOE and the Georgia School Board Association.
“As is true with any policies that align with state law, this is reviewed at several different levels, including GSBA …. and our own legal counsel to make sure it meets the intent of the law, which this policy clearly does,” Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden said.
Community members can find the full policy draft on the district’s website at www.forsyth.k12.ga.us. It will be available online for review for 30 days before the board votes on it at its next regular meeting on July 19.