Fourth in a series of articles intended to make the contents of the Arkansas LEARNS Act accessible to the ordinary reader.
This section targets “indoctrination” and sex ed.
Department of Education employees, contractors, guest speakers, and lecturers must be in compliance with Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (The Civil Rights Act desegregated schools on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. In 1972, Title IX added the protected category of sex.)
To these protected categories, the LEARNS Act adds creed, ethnicity, age, marital status, familial status, disability, and any other characteristic protected by federal or state law.
The “indoctrination” that seems to concern Arkansas legislators most is CRT.
The Department of Education will review rules, policies, materials, and communications in order to identify any items that may, purposely or otherwise, promote teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as Critical Race Theory, otherwise known as “CRT”, that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law or encourage students to discriminate against someone based on the individual’s color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law.
Any rules, policies, materials, or communications that are considered “prohibited indoctrination” must be “amended, annulled, or altered.”
“Prohibited indoctrination” is defined as a “communication by a public school employee, public school representative, or guest speaker that compels a person to adopt, affirm, or profess an idea that
(1) People of one color, creed, race, etc. are inherently superior or inferior to people of another color, creed, race, etc.,
(2) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual’s color, creed, race, etc.
No doubt aware of widespread ridicule of the notion that learning about past injustices causes white children to feel bad, Arkansas legislators take pains to assert that:
“This section does not prohibit the discussion of:
(1) Ideas and the history of the concepts described [in] this section; or
(2) Public policy issues of the day and related ideas that individuals may find unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.
Section 16 establishes policies relating to “child sexual abuse and human trafficking prevention.”
All schools will be required to implement instruction on these topics, but parents are given the right to preview curriculum materials and exempt their children from the sexual abuse prevention program.
Classroom instruction on the following topics is forbidden before Grade Five:
sexually explicit materials
This section relates to digital learning. Every school, public and charter, is required to provide at least one digital course. State divisions of elementary and secondary education shall annually publish a list of approved course choice providers that offer digital learning services.
New rules require that the digital courses provided are “nonsectarian and nondiscriminatory.”
Digital instruction must “utilize qualified teachers,” but digital instructors are
“not required to be licensed as a teacher or administrator by the state board, but shall meet the minimum qualifications for teaching in a core content area established by rules of the state board.”
Apparently digital courses for school credit will be permitted to home-schooled children:
The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education or state board shall not require as a condition of approval of a digital learning provider that the digital learning provider limit the delivery of digital learning courses to public schools that require physical attendance at the public school to successfully complete the credit for which the digital learning course is provided.
Repeals the Digital Learning Act 6-16-1406
Each high school student shall be required to take at least one (1) digital learning course for credit to graduate.
This lengthy section (4,757 words) is about a “Digital instruction High-impact tutoring pilot program.” (Arkansas Code § 6-16-1601)
This section addresses two apparently unrelated topics: Maternity leave and superintendent performance targets.
Generous paid maternity leave of twelve weeks is described in this section. Both biological and adoptive parents are eligible. Costs are to be shared equally by the state and the participating school district.
Section 16 — The wording about CRT seems to be intended to prevent discussion of any aspects of US history—such as African enslavement, Jim Crow, the KKK, lynchings, and school segregation. It would be impossible to talk about them and at the same time avoid talking about the idea that underpins them.
The constraints placed upon discussions of human sexuality in this Section are themselves a form of indoctrination. By forbidding all mention of human sexuality and gender before a certain age, children are being programmed to regard such matters as embarrassing and repellent.
And forbidding teachers to answer valid questions about what is happening to their bodies creates a potential source of distress for the children.
Not all parents discuss sex-related matters with their children. Recent surveys estimate that 20% of parents have no plans to bring the subject up to their children at all. Presumably they are counting on other children or social media to convey necessary information. The numbers may be smaller than in past decades, but for thousands of unprepared little girls, menstruation will come as a surprise, leading them to believe that they must be dying, until an embarrassed parent or older girl is able to set their minds at ease.
Sections 17 to 20 open public education to droves of outside providers and instructors. These “third party” interlopers may or may not possess the training or qualifications to create curriculum and present it to school children. The digital arrangements described equate to an expensive undertaking that will channel a great deal of tax money to charter schools and home-schooling parents.
Section 21—twelve weeks of paid maternity leave—has been used as a munificent selling point. There’s only one catch: individual school districts have the option not to offer it to their teachers.
Critical Race Theory (Legal Defense Fund FAQ)
Critical Race Theory (National Council on Family Relations)