Tyler Tidwell, a sophomore at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and an opinion writer for theArkansas Traveler, offers his thoughts on House Bill 1218. The bill would limit free speech in public education.
Lowery has proposed House Bill 1218, which seeks to “Prohibit [the] offering of certain types of courses, classes, events, and activities that pertain to race, gender, political affiliation, social class, or particular classes of people.”
HB 1218 targets all public schools, including public school districts, open-enrollment public charter schools, and state-supported community and four-year colleges. In an unwavering fashion, this bill forbids classes and clubs that “promote division between, resentment of, or social justice” for a race, gender, political group, social class, or specific class of individuals.
The bill empowers the State Board of Education and attorney general to determine whether a public school district or state-sponsored university, respectively, has violated these anti-speech restrictions. And if a school or university continues to violate this law after a warning, that school will lose up to 10 percent of its state funding.
Protecting students’ feelings was his intent in crafting the bill, Lowery said. “The intention is — so that students, especially K-12 that are captive, are not subjected to humiliation in terms of trying to make a statement about whether there is inequality or inequity and that’s been happening in some of these programs using critical race theory.”
But educators aren’t having it.
Attorney and public school teacher Jeremy Nixon said this bill attacks students’ constitutional rights and “handcuff[s]” teachers by hampering their “instructional methods that focus on questioning, critical thinking, and debate.”