Utah Democrats walk out ahead of race curriculum debate

Monica Wilbur expresses her opposition to critical race theory at the State Capital in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 19, 2021 | Photo courtesy Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Democrats walked off the House floor Wednesday in protest of a resolution recommending that the state review curriculum that examines the ways in which race and racism influence American politics, culture and the law.

Republican lawmakers say they want to ensure that children aren’t being taught that one race is inherently superior or inferior to another as part of critical race theory, which highlights how historical inequities and racism continue to shape public policy and social conditions.

Critical race theory is not a part of curriculum in K-12 schools, and the state school board has said no board member has suggested including it.

Lawmakers initially intended to consider an outright ban on critical race theory during the special legislative session, but Republican Gov. Spencer Cox declined to place the bill on the agenda and recommended delaying it until the next general session.

Cox said Monday that the critical race theory ban and a proposal to declare Utah a Second Amendment sanctuary needed “more time, thought, dialogue and input” before being voted on.

As Michelle Love-Day speaks, Sophia Anderson holds up a sign with the opposite opinion, during a news conference by the Utah Educational Equity Coalition at the State Captiol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 19, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, St. George News

In response, the House and Senate announced they would still bring both issues to the floor as separate resolutions over Cox’s objections.

House Democrats walked off the floor as debate began on the curriculum measure. Rep. Brian King, the Democratic minority leader, said his caucus was excluded from the process behind both resolutions and that walking out of the debate was their only option to speak out and “not be a part of that sham process.”

“What this is about is an attempt or first step in assuring that my history and the history of many people of color are not taught in our school system in the state of Utah,” said Rep. Sandra Hollins, the only Black member of the Legislature.

Identical resolutions against adding critical race theory to school curriculum have passed in the Senate and House.

Utah is not alone in advancing proposals to try to curb ideas central to critical race theory. Arkansas, Idaho and Oklahoma have implemented various versions of a ban already this year. Other attempts have been floated in New Hampshire, Missouri and Louisiana over the past few months, though those measures are unlikely to pass.

Written by SOPHIA EPPOLITO, Associated Press/Report for America.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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