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MONTGOMERY, Ala (WIAT) — The controversial issue of critical race theory dominated Tuesday’s meeting of the Alabama State School Board as members debated its true definition and considered drafting a resolution that would ban teaching the theory in state classrooms. 

“The board wants to deal with this issue head-on,” said state school superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey. “But at the same time, we want to be cautious we don’t step on anybody’s first amendment rights and that we make parents all comfortable.”

The board’s conversation follows a national debate on critical race theory, and Representatives Pringle and Mooney from Alabama have drafted a house bill that would ban the teaching of what the bill calls a “divisive concept” in the state. You can read the bill here.

Board member Tracie West outlined why she isn’t comfortable with the teaching of critical race theory, which centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society: “It actually tells them at the beginning about the country they were born into. And it also offers then a message of hopelessness.”

Dr. Tonya Chesnutt, a board member, voiced opposing concerns that the potential resolution dismisses racism’s role in the country’s founding: “’Whereas the Alabama Board of Education believes the United States of American is not an inherently racist country, and the state of Alabama is not an inherently racist state,'” Chesnutt said, quoting the draft, “I can’t with a clear conscious say that that’s actually true.”

Governor Kay Ivey, who presided over the meeting, said no matter what the board decides to do, their mission is clear: “The state board is to provide a quality education in the public schools that will lead them to a path of self-sufficiency and prosperity regardless of race or gender,” Ivey said. 

The board will take up the issue again at its August meeting, with a vote then or maybe by September, says Mackey.

He also said it’s important to note that critical race theory is not currently taught in Alabama’s schools, and that at the same time, it’s important to protect teacher’s rights to discuss sensitive topics with students including race and social issues.