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Newton school board OKs ‘divisive concepts’ complaint policy
Newton County schools office

COVINGTON, Ga. — A  state-mandated policy for complaints about students being taught they should feel guilty because of their race received Newton County School Board approval last week.

The Newton board voted July 26 to adopt a complaint resolution policy to address any allegations about educators violating the state’s new “divisive concepts” law the General Assembly approved earlier this year.

The board voted 4-1 to adopt the Georgia Board of Education model complaint policy. The law required local school boards to adopt the state board’s model or create their own policy by Aug. 1.   

Some Newton board members and administrators complained about state lawmakers mandating policies for local decision-makers that directly affected local students and educators.

“For those listening we don’t love those,” said District 1 board member Trey Bailey. 

Without comment, District 2 board member Eddie Johnson voted to oppose adoption of the policy despite the board’s approval being mandated.

The law prohibits teaching about U.S. history in a way that might make any student feel guilty or that they are superior or inferior to anyone else because of their race, Capitol Beat News Service reported. 

It prohibits teachers and administrators from “espousing personal political beliefs to questions regarding specific divisive concepts raised by students, school community members or participants in a training program.”

Proponents said such information can still be taught in “a professionally and academically appropriate manner and without espousing personal political belief.”

Supporters, such as Gov. Brian Kemp, also see the law as removing “left wing” and “radical politics” and “indoctrination” about race relations from classrooms, Capitol Beat reported.

Opponents said complaints likely will arise from social studies, language arts and literature classes and could create a “chilling effect” on how teachers and students discuss current events and other social issues.

They also say the law is an attempt to make the relationship between parents and educators adversarial rather than a partnership for the student’s benefit.

Complaints must first be submitted to the principal of the school where the violation allegedly occurred. 

The principal or a school system designee is required within three school days to investigate and tell the complainant what steps will be taken, followed by a review by the superintendent.

In other action at the July 26 meeting, board members approved a temporary pay increase from the current $110 to $150 for a long-term certified substitute teacher, and $165 for a long-term certified substitute teacher who is retired from Newton County schools.

The action is designed to address shortages of teachers in general, and in some courses that have proven difficult to find teachers in such as science and math.

The board also voted July 27 to:

• Approve the purchase of online and blended curriculum materials from Imagine Learning of Scottsdale, Arizona, for $309,097.

The curriculum will provide a self-paced, virtual instructional option for students in grades three through 12 who select that educational model, and as a supplemental resource for middle and high schools.

• Approve the purchase of instructional resources from the Really Great Reading Company LLC of Cabin John, Maryland for $43,769. 

The materials are for the Early Intervention Program (EIP) that serves kindergarten through fifth grade students who are at risk of not reaching or maintaining academic grade level in reading and/or math, officials said.

• Approve the 2023 Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Program Improvement Local Plan that allows $262,000 to be used for the program during the 2022-23 school year, once available from the state.

• Approve the purchase of a Destiny library management system and cloud migration from Follett School Solutions of McHenry, Illinois, at a cost of $28,507.

• Approve the purchase of computers and associated materials from ByteSpeed LLC of Moorhead, Minnesota, and Apple Inc. for $150,527 for the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) Program.

• Approve an annual renewable contract for HVAC services with Mann Mechanical Company Inc. of Decatur at a cost of $450,000.

• Approve renewal of the annual contract for electrical services with Ozburn Electrical Services of Covington for $150,000.

• Approve renewal of the annual contracts and purchases for the school nutrition program with Mayfield Dairy Farms for ice cream ($40,000) and Sanitech Systems Inc. for a safety and sanitation program ($50,000).