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Democrats boycott vote on bill to ban teaching critical race theory

Inside the dome of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing.
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio
The Michigan Capitol building.

The state House adopted a bill Tuesday to restrict what schools can teach about racism and sexism. The bill was adopted with only Republican support as Democrats boycotted voting after GOP leaders shut down a floor debate on the bill.

The measure seeks to broadly curtail instruction of what’s sometimes called “critical race theory.” The bill says K-12 school curricula “must not, in any way, include any form of 7 race or gender stereotyping or anything that could be understood as 8 implicit race or gender stereotyping.”

Republican Representative Andrew Beeler said he sponsored the bill after complaints from people in his district.

“Constituents and parents with horror stories of children being given assignments to 'deconstruct their whiteness' or to 'address their white fragility,'” he said. “Tales of teachers who were being trained to acknowledge their privilege and their inherent racism and to encourage their classrooms to do the same.”

Democrats said the measure would stifle teachers’ and students’ ability to thoroughly explore painful aspects of U.S. history, including racism and sexism.

“Legislation attempting to prohibit Michigan students from having the ability to learn about and engage in these types of discussions is anti-education, inherently un-American and perpetuates the status quo of inequality that still, indeed, exists today,” said Democratic Representative Regina Weiss, a former teacher.

Democratic Representative Kyra Bolden said the bill would scrub some dark truths from lessons and inhibit frank instruction of U.S. history.

“Slavery happened!” she said. “Lynching happened! Redlining happened! Government-sanctioned violence based on race happened.”

The bill now goes to the state Senate, which has a similar bill on its calendar.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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