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Katharine Frey

Katharine Frey is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org

Tennessee legislature passes bill to prohibit teaching certain divisive concepts in higher education

The Tennessee legislature on March 30 passed a bill that aims to prohibit an individual’s views on critical race theory from influencing decisions about hiring, tenure, promotion, or graduation in the state’s higher education institutions. 

House Bill 2670 would “prohibit a public institution of higher education from taking certain actions with regard to divisive concepts and the ideologies or political viewpoints of students and employees.” 

Tennessee state Rep. Ron Grant (R) released the following statement on the bill: “Any curriculum promoting the narrative that white privilege or racism is alive and well in Tennessee does not accurately reflect our state, our public education system or its residents. Our students deserve much better. This bill empowers employees and students of all races on our college campuses to think for themselves free from fear of discrimination and without being coerced to embrace any specific ideology or political viewpoint.” 

Opponents of HB 2670 argue it is an attack on what they describe as marginalized communities. “To take students’ ability to learn about those things away is not right,” said Tennessee State Senator London Lamar (D). Lamar added, “Most courses on diversity or issues regarding racism or gender studies are electives so you can choose to take those classes.”

The House voted 66-24 to approve the bill and the Senate followed with a 25-5 vote. The bill was pending further action by Gov. Bill Lee (R) as of March 30.



Minnesota lawmakers vote on Parental Bill of Rights education bills

The Minnesota State Senate March passed three education bills promoted by Republican state senators as part of what is described as the Parental Bill of Rights. The bills aim to increase parental access to instructional materials in public schools and prevent what is characterized as harassment of parents who testify at school board meetings. 

One of the bills, sponsored by state Sen. Paul Gazelka (R) of East Gull Lake, passed the Senate by a 37-30 vote on March 3. The bill would require school districts to have procedures that would allow parents to review all instructional materials “without cost and immediately on request.” The bill also includes a provision that would add a notice requirement to a law that already stipulates schools to make what they deem reasonable arrangements for alternative teachings when parents object to curriculum content. 

Democratic state senators, including Melissa Wiklund, argue the bill would put financial pressure on school districts by causing a surge in expensive data requests. They suggest the bill should focus instead on expanding school resources.

Republican gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Michelle Benson of Ham Lake authored a separate bill that would require teachers to make class syllabi accessible electronically to students and parents within the first two weeks of instruction. Benson’s bill advanced through the Minnesota Senate on March 10 by a 36-31 vote. 

The third bill aims to bar school districts from requiring parents testifying at board meetings to disclose their addresses in an effort to protect testifiers from potential harassment and threats. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R), passed the Senate by a 67-0 vote on March 3.

Most of the bills featured in the Parental Bill of Rights are not expected to make it through the Democratic-controlled Minnesota House of Representatives, according to the Duluth News Tribune



Indiana lawmakers forgo bill restricting school library materials

The Indiana State Legislature struck down a bill on March 9 that would have prevented students from accessing materials containing what the bill’s proponents deemed controversial topics in school libraries. 

House Bill 1369, authored by state Rep. Bob Morris (R), originally aimed to modify current sentencing guidelines for inmates. The school libraries provision was eventually added as an effort by Republican lawmakers to preserve aspects of recently defeated education bills put forth this legislative session. 

For Indiana Republican legislators, increasing parental access to curriculum materials has been a top priority to prevent schools from teaching what the lawmakers consider to be divisive concepts, such as critical race theory, according to the Associated Press

Democratic lawmakers, including state Rep. Tonya Pfaff, expressed concern that the school libraries provision would institute what they described as a backdoor book ban.

House members passed HB 1369 with the school libraries provision by a 65-32 vote, consistent along party lines. The Senate, however, defeated the bill by a vote of 21-29.