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DEI, ‘divisive concepts’ banned from being taught, promoted in public schools, state agencies

MONTGOMERY — A law that would ban “divisive concepts” from being taught or promoted has caused division around the state.

Gov. Kay Ivey signed the legislation which she listed as a priority in her State of the State address.  The law prohibits universities, K-12 school systems and state agencies from sponsoring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs, defined as classes, training, programs and events where attendance is based on a person’s race, sex, gender identity, ethnicity, national origin or sexual orientation.

The law goes into effect Oct. 1.

“My administration has and will continue to value Alabama’s rich diversity, however, I refuse to allow a few bad actors on college campuses – or wherever else for that matter – to go under the acronym of DEI, using taxpayer funds, to push their liberal political movement counter to what the majority of Alabamians believe,” Ivey said in a statement.

However, Democrats and opponents said the law was regressive and detrimental to education.

“This regressive measure undermines the strides we’ve made in cultivating an inclusive society in Alabama by stifling essential discussions and programs that are key to improving our state,” Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) said. The legislation “detrimentally impacts the educational experience of college students by removing programs in which they can receive support, build communities, and learn how to be prosperous and inclusive citizens.”

According to the legislation, schools, universities and state agencies cannot require students, employees and contractors to attend classes and training sessions “that advocates for or requires assent” to what the bill lists as eight “divisive concepts.”

The list of banned concepts includes that “any individual should accept, acknowledge, affirm, or assent to a sense of guilt, complicity, or a need to apologize on the basis of his or her race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.”

The ACLU Alabama labeled the legislation as “anti-truth” and “chilling.”

“This bill is intended to have a chilling effect on discourse regarding race, class, sexuality, and national origin, and seeks to characterize these discussions and accurate teachings, assignments, and trainings that also supplement them as ‘divisive,'” the organization said. “SB129 disrupts the work of student, staff, and faculty organizations at higher education institutions that rely on public funding from their university to develop DEI or culturally based programming. This is not only a form of classroom censorship, it’s an anti-truth bill which curtails an education on systemic inequities, racial violence, and the historic efforts to gain civil rights and civil liberties for marginalized communities throughout our nation’s history.

“The First Amendment protects the right to share ideas, including the right of listeners to receive information and knowledge. We must protect this right, including educators and students’ rights to talk and learn about race and gender in schools.”

Alabama’s college and university administrators said they were meeting with legal counsel to determine what actions they will need to take to ensure their programs are in compliance with the law.

The legislation also includes a ban on transgenders using restrooms on college campuses that align with their gender identity. The facilities can only be used by people “based on biological sex.”

It is unclear how the requirement would be enforced.

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