CHARLESTON, W.VA. – “This is just going to drive more and more teachers out of the profession,” President Lee told MetroNews’ “Talkline” today. Yesterday HB 4011 turned into a lengthy, heated debate in the House Education Committee meeting. This bill would establish the “Anti-Stereotyping Act” in West Virginia public schools. Delegate Hanna called the motion just as President Lee was about to be sworn in. “How ironic is that they promote a bill based on transparency and as I got up to speak, they cut off the debate and do not allow me to speak,” President Lee said. “Where’s the transparency in that?”
President Lee would have testified that the bill adds unnecessary bureaucratic chores for teachers and school systems having to upload the materials. And although the bill does not prevent the factual discussion of historic events, President Lee is concerned that the practical effect would be to make teachers doubt whether the free flow of classroom discussion might steer afoul of the policy. “A lot of my best lessons were where we would start going down a road and the kids’ questions would lead us down a different road. Now as a teacher, do I go down that road?” asked President Lee. “Am I in violation of this bill because I didn’t post it beforehand?” The bill does not state a punishment for those who might run afoul. Instead, it is cast as a tool for parents and community members to learn what diversity training or lessons surrounding race or sex might be in use by school systems.
President Lee said that kind of transparency already exists through curriculum teams, local school improvement councils or standards available on the state Department of Educations’ website. “You can see every standard being taught from pre-K through grade twelve. You can do that now,” he said. Critics of the bill have suggested it could have a chilling effect for discussions about the way factors such as sex, race or ethnicity have affected American society. “We’re teaching kids to be critical thinkers. Don’t you agree that’s important for all? You have to be able to be a critical thinker,” President Lee said. “It would not prevent that, but it would say – for example, if I were teaching something parents disagree with, they can say I’m breaking the law.”
HB 4011 passed out of committee with no further opportunity to discuss or amend. Next the bill heads to the House Judiciary Committee.