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Debate in legislature begins on Ohio’s critical race theory ban bills

COLUMBUS (AP) — A debate over teaching the role of racism in American history will be highlighted Wednesday as a committee weighs two bills before Ohio legislators that would prohibit such instruction.

Teaching that focuses on the effect of racism on society would be prohibited in Ohio’s K-12 classrooms under a pair of bills introduced by Republican state lawmakers in May that are similar to legislation introduced nationwide by GOP lawmakers.

Critical race theory is part of a scholarly movement that examines U.S. history and modern society through a focus on the legacy of slavery, racism and discrimination. Critics say it proposes that the United States is a fundamentally racist country.

Although the theory has been around for decades, conservatives more recently began focusing on it as a way to oppose classroom efforts to discuss topics related to race and racism. Such pushback became stronger following the country’s reckoning over racial injustice and police brutality in the aftermath of the 2020 murder of George Floyd, who was Black, by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and

Instructing students that one race or gender is inherently superior to another or that individuals could be considered racist by virtue of their skin color would be prohibited under a bill introduced by GOP state Reps. Diane Grendell of Chesterland and Sarah Arthur of Geneva-on-the-Lake.

A second bill introduced by Rep. Don Jones of Freeport contains similar provisions and also prohibits teaching that the advent of slavery constituted the true founding of the United States.

Despite the GOP legislation, there’s little evidence that the subject is being taught in K-12 schools in Ohio or elsewhere. Proponents say the concept is being misconstrued and is a way to discuss the role of racism in society, such as discrimination in bank loans.

Neither Ohio bill uses the phrase critical race theory, though Jones criticized the concept by name in a news release.

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