Aiken County's S.C. House delegation divided by party on critical race theory ban bill

Feb. 7—The South Carolina House of Representatives is likely to consider a bill banning the teaching of concepts related to critical race theory Wednesday, and Aiken County's House delegation is split by party on whether the bill should be approved.

S.C. Reps. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, and Melissa Oremus, R-Graniteville, said they supported passage of H.B. 3728, the South Carolina Transparency and Integrity in Education Act. S.C. Rep. Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, said there was a lot of skepticism regarding the bill.

The bill prohibits the teaching of concepts where one race, sex, ethnicity, color or national origin is inherently superior; that a person is privileged due to race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin; that a person's moral character is determined by race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin; that people should be discriminated against because of their race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin; that meritocracies or a hard-work ethic are racist, sexist or belong to one religion or particular group of people; or that blame should be assigned to a person because of the person's race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin.

It also bans mandatory gender or sexual diversity training except in cases where it is mandated as part of a corrective action plan and establishes nothing prohibits the teaching of the history of an ethnic group or fact-based discussions of controversial aspects of history or the oppression of a particular group based on the group's race, sex, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion or geographic region.

The bill provides for the development of a complaint mechanism for parents who feel their child's school is teaching one of the prohibited concepts.

Taylor, a co-sponsor of the bill, said he wanted students to learn in a positive environment where they feel welcomed, supported, respected and free from discrimination.

"I find it fascinating that those opposed to this legislation label it censorship claiming it will prevent students from learning about the ugly parts of the state and nation's history by restricting what teachers can say," Taylor said. "The objective is just the opposite. The legislation seeks instruction that is non-biased and includes a broad scope of history, both inspirational and shameful history of our great state and nation."

He said the bill ensures a transparent policy for teachers, parents and students to maintain high-quality education that is not clouded by bias. He added the bill uses language from a bill he filed that makes it easier for parents to question their child's curriculum.

Clyburn said he wanted to make sure that history is taught in South Carolina's public schools. He added he wanted to make sure the bill did not make teachers feel threatened. Clyburn said there are a lot of statements made about critical race theory but not everyone knows what it is or why it exists.

Hixon said he supported the bill. He added the House passed a similar bill last year — Hixon, Taylor, Oremus and Bart Blackwell voted for it; Clyburn voted against — but the bill did not receive consideration in the Senate.

Oremus said she did not support the teaching of critical race theory or related concepts in the state's public schools.

"Our kids do not need to be indoctrinated," Oremus said. "Parents need a voice in what our kids are learning."

The House is expected to meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Statehouse in Columbia.