Arizona bill banning ‘biased’ topics in schools advances

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona House of Representatives has advanced a bill with a last-minute amendment that would ban racist, sexist, politicized or other controversial topics in schools and penalize teachers with fines.

Republican state Rep. Michelle Udall, who introduced the amendment Wednesday, said the newly amended bill is intended to ensure students are not taught that their race, ethnicity or sex determines their character.

Charter schools and state agencies would be prohibited under the Unbiased Teaching Act from discussing controversial issues in schools unless teachers give equal weight to divisive topics. Violations would result in $5,000 fines.

The bill will next head to the Senate.

The bill is similar to other legislation being proposed nationwide in an effort to prohibit critical race theory from classrooms. Critical race theory seeks to highlight how historical inequities and racism continue to shape public policy and social conditions today.

Udall, who chairs the House Education Committee, dismissed arguments that the bill seeks to ban conversations on racism.

“We cannot allow children in our public schools to be taught that their skin color or ethnicity or sex somehow determines their character or actions. No forms of racism should be allowed to enter our classrooms,” Udall said. “Biased teaching needs to be stopped.”

Chris Kotterman with the Arizona School Board Association opposed the bill, arguing biased teaching is not happening in Arizona schools. He also said the bill’s language is too vague and create continuous arguments over what is appropriate to teach and what is not appropriate.

“The foundational argument is that there is some movement that teaches students, white students specifically, that they need to feel bad about the past sins of the country. That’s trash. There’s no one with any creditability that’s teaching that to students,” Kotterman said.

House Democrats voted against the bill, arguing that it’s unconstitutional and reminiscent of a 2010 law that banned Mexican-American studies and was later struck down in court.

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