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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
Two state lawmakers hope to eliminate mandatory bias training for educators in Tennessee.
Representative Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville-District 14) and Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga-District 10) have introduced companion bills HB0158/SB0102 that prohibit a local education agency (LEA), public charter school, public institution of higher education, the state board of education, and the department of education from requiring an educator, employee of an LEA or charter school, faculty member, or employee of a public institution of higher education to complete or participate in implicit bias training. The bill also prohibits educators or other employees from having adverse actions taken against them for refusing to participate in such training.
The bill defines “implicit bias training” as “a training or other educational program designed to expose an individual to biases that the training’s or educational program’s developer or designer presumes the individual to unconsciously, subconsciously, or unintentionally possess that predispose the individual to be unfairly prejudiced in favor of or against a thing, person, or group to adjust the individual’s patterns of thinking in order to eliminate the individual’s unconscious bias or prejudice.”
School districts across the state have contracted with companies that provide implicit bias training, also called unconscious bias training. Last spring, the Wilson County School Board reviewed a contract between the county and Better Lesson, to provide training services for teachers and administrators, at their meeting in April.
A Wilson County stakeholder said that the core values of Better Lesson claim to “commit to examining biases, shifting actions and views, and dismantling unjust systems.”
In Hamilton County, the school district hired LJ Ewing to provide a training called ‘Unlearn Everything and Live’ for teachers in August which promised to dismantle “the manifestations of systems of oppression within our organizations.” Other goals of the training were “understanding of the system of racial inequity in the context of the United States and the impact it has at the interpersonal, institutional and structural level” and “facilitating Learning and Unlearning Session on the racial inequity for organizational teams.”
In an email to the Hamilton County School Board, a concerned parent stated that the concepts in the training appeared to be in violation of items in a bill that the state passed in 2021.
The passage of HB0580/SB0620 established parameters for the teaching of certain concepts related to race and sex. The amendments to TCA Title 4 and Title 49 prohibits teaching that the state or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist, and aims to prevent “ascribing character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex.”
Despite the bill’s passage, these concepts continued to be included in curriculum in Metro Nashville Schools with teachers being required to attend Diversity and Equity training during summer break.
Last spring, Tennessee passed an intellectual diversity law which outlawed mandatory critical race theory in curricula and from affecting hiring and promotions within the state’s public colleges and universities but a bill to eliminate CRT and associated diversity training from all Tennessee workplaces was relegated to a summer study.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.