By Isaiah Peters
Last month, the Missouri House granted preliminary approval to the 10-page “Parents’ Bill of Rights of 2022.”
The bill mandates the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education must withhold funds from schools who violate any of the new provisions in the ‘Bill of Rights.’
“Missouri leads the nation in anti-equity,” said Heather Fleming, founder of In Purpose Educational Services and Missouri Equity Education Partnership, an organization supporting anti-bias education.
“Teachers need to be able to teach culturally competent material without fear of repercussions,” said St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones.
Subjects such as history and current events including modern instances of racism, is being branded as “indoctrination,” as GOP Missouri lawmaker Rep. Ben Baker described it.
To alert the community to the latest efforts to purge Black history, other subjects and books from public schools by Republicans in the state legislature, a march for Education and Equity Fair was held Saturday, April 30, 2022, at Ely Luther Smith Square.
“Legislators looking to ban identity conversations fail to realize white people are not the only ones uncomfortable discussing race if the overwhelming response is being catered to protect their feelings,” said Mya Walker, Francis Howell North High School senior and activist.
The bill also allows parents to bring civil lawsuits against school districts violating any provision.
“What is hurtful to Black students is immediate attempts to comfort white people at the expense of people of color,” Walker said. “This is grounded in racism and shows exactly why we have to talk about race in the first place. It sends a message that there is only one type of student worth protecting.”
Joining the “Parent’s Bill of Rights” is another Missouri General Assembly proposal, if implemented, would give parents the right “to object to class instructional materials based on such parent’s beliefs regarding morality, sexuality, religion, or other issues related to the well-being, and education, of such parent’s child.”
State Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, a St. Louis Democrat, decried the new legislation as revisionism.
The bill mandates the education department to create a form for parents to be notified and asked two weeks in advance whenever a divisive topic may conflict with a parent’s beliefs.
“Critical race theory [CRT] is targeted because many people have been able to attach any meaning to it,” Fleming said.
House Bill 1474 narrows in on “CRT.” The GOP-backed bill identifies CRT “as inherently, or systemically sexist, racist, biased, privileged, or oppressed.”
“If Ruby Bridges could stand to be one of the first little Black girls to integrate, then our kids need to know about that,” said Jones.
The Missouri State’s commissioner said a majority of Missouri’s K-12 schools do not teach CRT. A Missouri state education department survey found that nearly all responding school districts said the curriculum did not feature CRT.
“Republicans are doing a great job of fear-mongering; trying to put politics into education, which has no place,” said state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge.
The state education department will be required to establish a portal with each school district to post curriculum taught and guest speakers.
“There were not many Black students, or [Black people] in the curriculum.” Sophia Johnson Bartwell Middle School activist, 12, said. “I always felt left out that I was not seen in the curriculum.”
“We are not having true conversations,” Aldridge said. “They [Republicans] do not want our kids to feel the uncomfortable truth of history. They have continued to attack education that is disgusting and divisive.”
Aldridge said the conversations Missouri should have been and should be about universal quality education and resources.
“We want to create a table that is long enough and wide enough for all of us,” said Fleming.