The bill is entitled Critical Race Theory, but questions still remain among members as to whether it actually prohibits CRT teaching.
The Mississippi House took up the Senate’s bill that would limit conversation surrounding race, gender and sexual orientation in the classroom. The bill is entitled Critical Race Theory; prohibit, but with no direct language to CRT in the bill, confusion still surrounds whether or not it directly pertains to CRT curriculum.
After seven hours of debate, one of the longest straight debates in the House, the bill was passed in the House by a vote of 75-43. The bill was highly protested by members of the Black Caucus, all of which voted against the legislation.
“What we are concerned is that they passed legislation today that censors our teachers and our students and their ability to teach history and ability to learn actual factual history,” said Rep. Robert Johnson.
The Mississippi House Democratic Caucus held a press conference after the passage of the bill to further expand on their concerns:
“One of the things we were gravely concerned about, was how this further divides us,” said Reverend and Representative Otis Anthony. He said after the change of Mississippi’s state flag two years ago, this legislation seems to put the state further back.
Rep. Anthony added that with the passage of this bill there are concerns that additional legislation will come years from now that could continue to “handcuff” teachers from teaching history.
Rep. Percy Watson of Forrest, who has served over 40 years in the Legislature, said this is a situation in which the bill may have passed, but it should have failed.
“No one knows exactly what it’s going to do but it seems to be an indication that Mississippi is moving backwards,” said Rep. Watson. “No one can really explain CRT or say what impact it will really have for public education or higher education so it was necessary for the black members to raise this bill as being very very dangerous to public education.”
Because no changes were made in the form of amendments, the bill can head directly to Governor Reeves for passage.
Reeves indicated in his State of the State address that he supports combatting critical race theory. When asked if he would sign the bill, a representative from his office said the Governor will review the legislation once it reaches his desk and make a decision at that time.
Rep. Johnson said if the law is signed by the Governor they will be looking into legal challenges to the bill. He said he has no plans at this time to speak with the Governor prior to it heading to his desk.
SB 2113 would prevent teaching that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is inherently superior or inferior or that individuals should be adversely treated on the basis of their sex, race, ethnicity religion or national origin.”
The bill was presented by Representative Joey Hood. Shortly after being brought up a motion to table was made, but failed with a vote.
Many Representatives shared that they were unclear as to the intent of the legislation. Hood insisted the bill was to protect any child from being taught that, among the listed group, no one should be taught that another is inferior or superior.
In total 17 amendments were offered on the bill that varied from changing the language, to striking all the language, and to adding required teaching curriculum to the bill. All of the amendments failed on the floor.
Many Representatives asked whether or not this was an issue currently found in Mississippi Schools. Rep. Hood said he did not recall any scenarios where this teaching was happening at this time.
Representative Shanda Yates said she is aware of one class in the state of Mississippi that is teaching Critical Race Theory. That class takes place at the University of Mississippi.
She asked Representative Hood whether or not that class would still be able to be taught if this bill is passed. Yates then read off the Webster definition of CRT:
“A group of concepts (such as the idea that race is a sociological rather than biological designation, and that racism pervades society and is fostered and perpetuated by the legal system) used for examining the relationship between race and the laws and legal institutions of a country and especially the United States.”
Hood said he could not speak to the definition, and that there are many definitions of CRT that people refer to.
“Other than the title of the bill, is this bill a critical race theory bill,” asked Yates.
“Lady, the definition of what this bill is, is that we’re not going to teach curriculum that say one race is superior or inferior,” said Hood. “It is not limited to race in this bill.”
Representative Robert Johnson questioned whether or not all of Mississippi’s history would be taught if the bill passed. He referenced the Confederacy’s Secession articles and he said that documents indicate that African Americans were viewed as inferior, at that time in history, by some individuals.
He asked if that piece of history would not be taught if this bill passes.
Hood said history will still be taught as it happened and that this bill pertains more to the treatment of individuals and that no one will be treated as inferior or superior.
“We aren’t going to say one race is inferior or superior to another, and that’s really what the bill does,” said Hood. “Our history can still be taught with this bill and it will be taught to our students.”
Several more hours of conversation, questions and debate continued after the bill was brought up. Members shared concerns that this legislation would be divisive and cause censorship in teaching for Mississippi students.