State senate bill would require schools to post all curriculum related to race, LGBTQ topics online

a person sitting at a table
Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, at an Alaska Legislature listening session at the Anchorage Baptist Temple on Nov. 22, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

A bill that would require schools to post online all curriculum related to diversity, equity, race, gender and sexuality had its second hearing in the state Senate earlier this week.

Senate Bill 196 also prohibits teaching that someone is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, gender, religion or nationality.

It’s similar to other bills that have popped up around the country. Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law the Parental Rights in Education bill, which opponents have called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It limits discussion of LGBTQ issues in classrooms and requires schools to tell parents when their children receive mental health services.

SB 196’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold of Eagle River, says it would improve parents’ awareness of what their kids are learning in school and prevent what she called “reverse racism.” It’s co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Mia Costello of Anchorage.

Six of the seven Alaskans who testified on Monday supported the bill.

“If it were not controversial, or if they weren’t trying to hide something, there’s no reason why all of the curriculum should not be posted online in the digital age,” said Kendall Kruse of Palmer.

Some districts already do. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, which includes Palmer, posts curriculum guides for all grade levels. The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District website includes links to all adopted curriculum, including suggested activities and reading material.

SB 196 would also allow the attorney general to take legal action against a school or school board for violating those rules. That was a concern for Phillip Moser of Juneau, who spoke in opposition.

“This isn’t about transparency,” he said. “It’s about giving political actors the ability to intimidate and threaten teachers.”

Sen. Tom Begich, a Democrat from Anchorage, said the bill’s vague language could end up preventing teachers from discussing historical topics like the civil rights movement or Jim Crow laws.

“It allows one ideology to triumph over others by giving the veto to one person, potentially with lawsuits to be engaged, in determining subjectively what can and cannot be taught in a classroom,” he said.

A third hearing on the bill will take place at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 13, and will be streamed on the Legislature’s website.

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