The theory is used in some college classrooms to study the impact of racism on society, but K-12 educators say it’s not used in their schools.

These two bills – the other being House Bill 1084 – would prohibit teachers from promoting certain ideas, including that a race is inherently superior.

The language was essentially taken from a September 2020 executive order by President Donald Trump that identified “divisive concepts” and banned them from training federal employees. The order was later reversed by President Joe Biden.

Proponents say Georgia’s bills face a widespread problem in classrooms that they have yet to document to critics’ satisfaction. Opponents call it a cynical strategy to increase turnout in an election year as the pandemic and racial protests have divided the country.

During a two-hour debate on Friday, Democrats attacked Senate SB 377, calling it an incoherent attempt to censor painful discussions about race.

“This language is so vague and confusing that I’m actually having a hard time pinpointing exactly what the law actually does,” said Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, noting that it allows for the teaching of past racism while it forbids talking about it today.

Senator Harold Jones II, D-Augusta said it would enforce neutrality when it comes to the atrocities of slavery. “I have to say there are both sides,” he said. “I can’t say I condemn that. Are we really there?

Sen. Bo Hatchett, R-Cornelia, defended his bill, saying “99.99%” of Georgian teachers would not teach the banned concepts. But students need to be protected from the teachers who do this, he said.

Senator Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, said education lost its focus decades ago when liberal protesters became teachers after the Vietnam War. He said the bill would help education find its “true north” by preparing students for gainful employment.

Legislation now goes to the House of Representatives as HB 1084 awaits a Senate hearing. As a sign of cooperation between the chambers, Hatchett, the author of SB 377, said he would submit the House bill to the Senate.