West Virginia House Education Committee Tackles Anti-Critical Race Theory Bill | News, Sports, Jobs
Photo of: W. Va. Legislative Photography
CHARLESTON – Lawmakers in a West Virginia House of Representatives committee have picked up a bill that caused controversy over race and history issues in the last session.
The House Education Committee recommended Senate Bill 130, the Anti-Racism Act, for passage and submitted the bill to the House Judiciary Committee. The committee vote was 21-3, with the three Democratic members of the committee all having no votes.
SB 130 would prohibit the teaching that one race is morally or intellectually superior or inferior to another; or that a race in West Virginia’s K-12 public schools is consciously or unconsciously inherently racist.
The bill prohibits teaching that a person’s moral character is derived from their racial identity or that they bear responsibility for acts committed by those of a similar racial background. It includes, under certain circumstances, the protection of freedom of expression, historical discussion, and academic freedom while alternative theories are debated. It also includes a grievance and appeals process for students, parents and staff to report violations of the provisions of the bill.
Schools and district education board officials would be prohibited from forcing students and staff to adopt beliefs or concepts that one race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior to another.
“I believe this is an honest attempt to prevent the kind of effort that is trying to split us into groups that can then be pitted against us,” Del said. Bill Ridenour, R-Jefferson. “This is a bill that will bring us together and prevent us from being pitted against one another as race, ethnicity or religion, and we can address these issues going forward.”
The committee’s two black lawmakers — Sean Hornbuckle, minority chair of the House Education Committee, D-Cabell, and Del. Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, opposed the bill.
“What are we doing in this anti-racism bill for minority groups and marginalized people? It doesn’t appear that this bill is about that,” Hornbuckle said. “You have the ability to vote these bills up or down, but at least have the common courtesy to title them something that appeals to the content … maybe it’s about ideology or political favors and things like that to get the grassroots excited.”
“The title of this bill can be misleading,” Walker said. “Race isn’t just black and white…it goes way beyond that. Until we feel uncomfortable and can stand strong and honest about the definition of racism and who exactly is or may or may not be a racist, does or does not discriminate and what those acts are and not bringing things like cultural competence into this bill, I will always be a no.”
The state Senate passed the law on the first day of the 2023 legislative session, Jan. 11, suspending the state’s constitutional requirements that require bills to be read on three separate days. It is based on a similar bill – Senate Bill 498 – which almost passed both houses during the 2022 legislature, only to die after midnight on the last day of session, when the Senate had missed the deadline in approving the changes that would make the House of Representatives had made bill.
SB 130 prohibits the teaching and discussion of specific race and nondiscrimination issues, often categorized under the name Critical Race Theory, or CRT. PEN America, a freedom-of-speech organization, calls these kinds of bills “educational gags.” According to PEN America, 193 bills have been introduced in state legislatures since 2021, with 15 states having legislation ordering education gags for public schools.