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TOPEKA, (KSNT)— Kansas lawmakers are eyeing a bill called the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which would give parents authority over what their kids learn in schools, and make sweeping changes to the state’s education system.
Activist groups and people from across the state rallied at the Capitol Tuesday to express their opposition to the plan.
Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said the bill was resurrected from a past measure that was struck down six years ago, Senate Bill 56. Witt called it the “book burning bill,” which would have removed the affirmative defense teachers have when they’re teaching approved materials in the classroom.
“Somebody says something is obscene and shouldn’t be given to minors… say teaching ‘Catcher in the Rye’ to sophomores, teachers can be arrested and charged for teaching that material,” Witt said.
Witt went on to say that the new “Parents’ Bill of Rights” isn’t too far off from that legislation. He said it would limit what teachers can teach and what students can learn about race in the classroom. This includes everything from books you read to parts of history.
“There is a section in this bill that would allow a teacher that is teaching science, perhaps, to say I’m not going to teach that because it offends my religion,” Witt said.
Other community leaders joined in the rally held by Kansas Interfaith Action, KIFA, voicing their concerns over the proposal, and what it could mean for the future of how we understand history.
Pastor Carl Frasier from Topeka, said people need to hear the truth about what happened back then, even if it hurts.
“It’s time for our kids to be set free, and let them learn the truth about history where it hurts,” Frasier said. “How many of you want to be free and know what really happened in the 18…1700s, in the 1900s…the why that we are the way we are today. And the only reason we can be free is that Kansas and America let the true history be told.”
Other speakers echoed Frasier’s comments. Rev. Robert Johnson, pastor of St. Mark UMC in Wichita and a KIFA board member, said it’s a tactic to limit the African American voice.
“Part of the reason that they want to exclude important dimensions of the American story, particularly those that include African American history, is because it allows them to create a narrative that justifies unjust economic policies. And it’s important that those of us who are here, gather together, to say ‘Teach the Truth.'”
Some republicans are trying to push the bill through. The move extends from a broader national conversation about Critical Race Theory, with other states also eyeing similar legislation.
Critical Race Theory, or CRT, studies the impact of race on legal systems and policies.
The controversial subject has been criticized as a divisive way to teach racial history by some. Supporters claim that while certain issues may cause discomfort, they need to be discussed.
Some GOP lawmakers have advocated against the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the past, especially in K-12 schools. Although, the state board of education has reiterated that it’s not in the state’s academic standards.
A hearing on the Parents’ Bill of Rights is set for Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in the House K-12 Education Budget committee.
To learn more about the bill, click here.
This content was originally published here.