RALEIGH, N.C. (September 3, 2021) — This week, the NC General Assembly passed a final version of HB 324 and sent it on to the Governor. Since this bill was first introduced in May, the Public School Forum has continuously lifted up concerns about the impacts this proposed law could have on North Carolina’s students, teachers, and public education system when it comes to having difficult and robust conversations about our nation’s complicated past and the systemic inequities that persist today.
Our legislators, on both sides of the aisle, continually reference their support of education for all students. However, the Forum has repeatedly heard from educators and students that were it to become law, HB 324 could limit teachers’ ability to discuss the reality of racism in the United States and would limit students’ engagement with history, current events, and personal health, as well as their social and emotional learning. In addition, this bill seeks to tackle a problem for which robust solutions already exist. If students or families believe there is compelled speech or indoctrination happening in the classroom, there are mechanisms at the local school board level as well as the state level to address these concerns, which could qualify as federal and/or state constitutional violations and/or violations or professional codes of teacher conduct.
The Forum held a virtual Town Hall in August so that lawmakers, students and educators could come together to discuss the potential impacts of HB 324. Our students and educators bravely interacted with state leaders to let them know how this policy could impact their classrooms and futures as well-informed and culturally-sensitive citizens of our great state.
We have made progress in the movement toward a more just and equitable world, but we still have much more work to do. Engaging students in these critical conversations and complex issues is an ideal way to enable students to analyze, question, and generate solutions to challenging, real world problems. By denying our students these opportunities, we also deny them their constitutional right to a sound basic education, and we put them, and our nation at a future disadvantage. We must not deny students this right simply because these truths are challenging and uncomfortable.
We know this conversation about how to talk about race and equity in the classroom is happening across our nation and will persist whether or not HB 324 becomes law. The Public School Forum looks forward to continuing this dialogue with our state leaders, educators and students, because we know that our students are ready to learn and reimagine a better future for us all. And, in order to do so, we must ensure that they are equipped with the facts and have the knowledge and skills to lead us there. The only way to truly work towards unity and non-discrimination is to bravely and honestly reckon with our country’s complicated past and present.
Lindsay Wagner, Director of Communications