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SC House panel takes up controversial education bill

The "South Carolina Transparency and Integrity in Education Act" could change what is being taught in schools.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A House education panel advanced a bill Tuesday that could change what is being taught in South Carolina Schools.

The "South Carolina Transparency and Integrity in Education Act" would prohibit teaching that an individual is inherently "privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive", among other requirements. 

However, the bill also says it wouldn't prohibit "the fact-based discussion of controversial aspects of history" nor would it prevent teachers from discussing "the historical oppression of a particular group of people".

Critics of the bill like Michelle Mapp with the ACLU called it vague and said it could lead to unintended consequences. 

"The question becomes who gets to decide what’s biased and what’s fact based," said Mapp.

Teachers like Dawn Duke testified in front of lawmakers in opposition to the bill.  

"We need to give all of our students the history they deserve," said Duke. 

The bill also calls on schools to create complaint forms for parents to use if classroom material is discovered to be objectionable. It would also make instructional material available for parents to review online, which many schools already do. 

"My son has not had an English teacher in the classroom almost the entire semester," said  "So I'm more concerned about the good teachers that are going to find this as another incentive to leave the profession.”

Supporters of the bill like co-sponsor Rep. Rob Harris (R-Spartanburg) said they want opinions and politics to stay out of the classroom. 

"We just want truth, and facts, and real honest education," said Harris. 

The bill, if passed, would apply to all K-12 schools or other local education agencies, including public charter schools.

Sponsor of the bill Rep. Raye Felder (R-York) said the bill mirrors a similar one that passed the House last year, but died in the Senate days before the legislative session ended. 

Unlike last years version, this years "does not discuss student feelings or use subjective language," said Felder. 

Democratic lawmakers argue the language is ambiguous and should be changed. 

"Now anyone could file a complaint against a teacher because they have a different definition of what's age appropriate. For example, it's fact based that African Americans were enslaved and beaten and chained for some parents, that may not be age appropriate," said Rep. Deon Tedder (D-Charleston).

Schools or other educational agencies found violating the proposed law or refusing to adhere to a correction plan could see up to 5% of their appropriated funds withheld by the state Department of Education.


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