Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Executive Officer promoted critical race theory over Juneteenth weekend. The DEI head, Ashford Hughes, encouraged his followers to read “Critical Race Theory: the Key Writings That Formed the Movement.” Among the co-authors of the 1995 book is Kimberlé Crenshaw, a scholar that helped found and popularize critical race theory.
“This Juneteenth weekend I hope we can increase the debate around what Critical Race Theory actually IS by reading the scholarly works that have been written by leaders of the theory for over 30 plus years,” wrote Hughes. “This book should be on your shelf whether you oppose or support [it].”
Tennessee State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) offered his thoughts on Shelby County Schools’ (SCS) consideration of implementing racial justice and equity training. Ragan shared with The Tennessee Star that a requirement of this training as a condition of employment could potentially be an issue – it would have to be voluntary.
As The Star reported this week, SCS may invest up to $480,000 for the racial justice and equity training offered by the nonprofit New Leaders. Upon review of New Leaders’ materials, The Star discovered that it encourages participants to adopt “culturally responsive” practices in schools – a synonym for critical race theory. Additionally, materials repeatedly assert the need for white people to be aware of their race, privilege, and power.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn promised to publish educator guidance on the state’s critical race theory ban by August 1. The ban was first proposed in the Tennessee General Assembly by State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge). The law itself doesn’t mention critical race theory by name, but it does address the theory’s tenets and practices at length.
Schwinn revealed the plan to issue guidance in an exclusive interview with Chalkbeat on Wednesday. The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) guidance will also address the question of how the commissioner would uphold the ban, including a complaint evaluation process and financial penalty system. Ragan’s amendment noted that the commissioner would determine how much state funding to withhold for violations.
Tennessee legislators will draft legislation to increase transparency and establish protective measures for the sponsorship of unaccompanied migrant children. The federal government says that sponsors are “almost always a parent or close relative” – but that’s not always the case. Lawmakers’ urgency to increase transparency and establish protective measures for sponsorship heightened after it was revealed that Governor Bill Lee’s administration has continued licensing for a Chattanooga shelter without apparent provisions in place to protect the housed migrant children from traffickers and cartels.
The Chattanooga shelter is run by the Baptiste Group, a Georgia-based national group that provides emergency shelter services for unaccompanied migrant children – usually for up to 30 days, excepting complications. Last May, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families contracted with the Baptiste Group for a conditional Residential Child Care Agency License in Chattanooga. The three-year contract, set to expire last August, anticipated nearly $7.5 million in costs to house up to 100 children.
The Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill effectively banning critical race theory (CRT) from K-12 education. The legislature had to create a conference committee on Wednesday to resolve the legislature’s conflict on amending language effectively banning CRT in schools. That conference committee not only approved the ban – they added onto the ban. In addition to the original language of the bill outlining and banning 14 tenets of CRT, The Tennessee Star was informed by State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) that the conference committee report added on three tenets. In effect, these tenets further defined the prohibited conclusions typically advanced by CRT.
“(12) The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups; (13) All Americans are not created equal and are not endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; or (14) Governments should deny to any person with the government’s jurisdiction the equal protection of the law[,]” read the added provisions.
On Tuesday, the Tennessee House passed a bill effectively banning critical race theory (CRT) in K-12 schools. The bill doesn’t mention CRT explicitly, but it does prohibits CRT’s main tenets – such as the belief that America is fundamentally and systemically racist, and that an individual can be inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive based on their race or sex. The amended version of the bill will now head to the Senate for review. During the third and final hearing before the House, State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) gave a lengthy speech expounding on the fundamental founding principles of our country.
“[I]t is time that we support educating our children in fixing what is wrong with America with what is right with America,” said Ragan. “We must create an educational climate where every student is an individual, not just part of some group. Moreover, that educational climate must teach students that they can realize their own unique dreams through hard work and meritorious achievement.”
The Tennessee House passed a bill enacting stricter oversight on contraceptive information for school-aged children. As amended, the legislation would require that any contraceptive information is consistent with public policy, approved by the local board of education or charter school governing body, and available upon request to the parent.
The educational boards must verify that the contraceptive information is both medically accurate and age-appropriate, and that it aligns with present state law and academic standards. If parents find the material objectionable, they can opt their student out without any penalty.
On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee approved a bill to make county health boards as advisory bodies only, and to prohibit mandatory vaccine passports. The bill was introduced by State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), and also sponsored by State Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma).
Currently, the components limiting county health boards’ powers and prohibiting vaccine passport mandates aren’t listed as part of the bill. They were introduced as an amendment in the House on Tuesday. Additionally, the bill would relegate local health authority to the state and limit county health officers’ quarantine-mandating powers – individuals and places that aren’t known to have contributed to the spread of a disease may not be quarantined.
Tennessee legislators are moving to ban prepubescent gender transitions, and limit postpubescent minors’ eligibility for gender transitions. The Tennessee House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted to recommend the bill for passage on Wednesday. State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) introduced the bill.
In addition to prohibiting all gender transitions for prepubescent minors, the bill would allow gender transitions for postpubescent minors only with the consent of their parents and recommendation of three doctors, the third doctor being a child psychiatrist. Exceptions for gender transition treatments would be made for those with any confirmed diagnosis of abnormal genitalia, genetic anomalies, physical disease with life-threatening consequences in the absence of intervention, and an accident irreparably mutilating genitalia.
A joint Ad Hoc Committee to Study Emergency Powers in a meeting held Tuesday agreed to pass along their recommendations for reforming Tennessee law regarding the declaration of a state of emergency and powers granted to the executive branch during such emergency.
Of note is that the agreed-upon reforms are not recommended to go into effect until the current administration leaves. Additionally, the recommendations do not address the constitutionality of current state law.