GOP bills seek to limit how teachers discuss race in the classroom

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Republican lawmakers are trying to limit how teachers discuss race in their classroom by introducing bills that target critical race theory. 

Three pieces of legislation introduced by Republicans Thursday seek to ban the concept of critical race theory (CTR) from being taught in schools. It’s a framework that examines how policies and law perpetuate systemic racism. 

Republican Rep. Chuck Wichgers, Rep. Rick Gundrum and Rep. Gae Magnafici said they drafted the bills to address the “growing concerns of the material being taught in the classroom.”

“We need to teach students the basics to be proficient, not teach divisive concepts,” said Rep. Gundrum (R-Slinger). 

The bills stop short of using the phase CRT but instead list various definitions of it such as “race or sex stereotyping.”

One bill would withhold school funding from school districts who promote that language, another requires schools to post their curriculum online. If teachers disobey these rules, parents could file a complaint in circuit court under another proposal. 

“These bills give the parents the tools to hold their school boards accountable, to challenge what is being taught or instructed," said Rep. Wichgers. 

It’s up to local school boards to create the curriculum, but the bill's sponsors said they would still have control under these bills even though they called it a “ban on CRT” during a press conference. 

Critics of the proposals say incorporating lessons surrounding race and racism are important, especially after a year of protests calling for social justice. 

“Allow the truth to be taught about what has happened so people can understand the privileges they’ve experienced at the detriment and the inhumane treatment of others,” said Democratic Senator Lena Taylor of Milwaukee. 

Monia Wichgers, sister-in-law of Rep. Wichgers, spoke in support of the bills as a parent of two Black children.

“What I’m seeing now in the school is something I have never seen before, it’s like the teachers are promoting division,” Wichgers said. “Now my children are being made to think of themselves as perpetual victims and to think of the white race as perpetual oppressors.”

Taylor criticized parents who say their kids feel uncomfortable learning about what’s going on in the nation. 

“If teaching the truth is too traumatic for others, that’s ridiculous,” Taylor said. 

The debate over what’s taught in the classroom is nothing new as about a dozen states have moved to ban critical race theory in schools. 

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