A new Georgia law could derail a recent campaign to remove “inappropriate” books from public schools in Coweta County.
Currently awaiting Governor Brian Kemp’s signature, SB 226 includes a timeline for school officials to respond to formal complaints about objectionable materials. It also allows parents and legal guardians to initiate the process of reviewing these documents in the schools attended by their children.
While the new law does not affect the right of parents to formally or informally object to material in their children’s classrooms or school media centers, it could eliminate provisions of current school board policy. of Coweta County that allow any Coweta school resident or employee to initiate the process at any public school in the county.
“SB 226 explicitly grants this right to object to parents or legal guardians,” said Dean Jackson, public information officer for the Coweta County School System.
Jackson said that under the new law, only a parent or legal guardian has the right to challenge what they consider to be objectionable material, and only at the school in which their child is enrolled.
Since October last year, complaints have been filed against six specific books available at Coweta middle and high schools, and Jackson said the objections were all made by representatives of political organizations – none of whom allegedly the right to participate in the process under SB. 226.
He said they represent organizations with “very specific political agendas or views.”
“In particular, these same books have been challenged by No Left Turn in Education, which recently formed in Coweta and other Georgia communities last summer,” Jackson said. “It’s part of a trend around our state and our nation.”
Xiomara Castro, who leads the local NLTE chapter, has regularly attended board meetings over the past few months, frequently reading excerpts from books containing profanity and references to sexual activity and drug addiction.
The books that Castro – who has no children enrolled in Coweta schools – and his organization objected to are currently being reviewed under the system’s existing ‘review of documents’ (IFA-R) policy. school.
“We have placed these books under review by media committees at any middle school or high school that has a copy in their media center,” Jackson said.
Under current policy, responses to material issues are the responsibility of each school’s principal and parent/teacher media committees. These committees review the materials and determine whether they should be restricted or removed.
SB 226 would require a change in timelines, Jackson said, but all of the elements of the new legislation are already present in the current policy.
“The big difference is who this policy is extended to,” he said. “Under the new law, it does not appear that people outside our schools have standing to bring these challenges. Instead, this formal process would be reserved for the real parents of our schools.
Coweta school officials are considering several other bills that await Kemp’s signature, and Jackson said Georgia Department of Education boards will determine how Coweta Board policy will be updated to reflect the new language adopted by the legislature.
This includes HB 1283, which requires daily recess in schools; SB 345, which prohibits requiring COVID-19 vaccines; HB 514, which prohibits requiring face masks; HB 1178, the “Declaration of the Rights of Parents”; and HB 1084, the “Concepts of Division” bill.
“Just looking at the wording of the bills, it doesn’t seem like they will have a significant impact on how we run our schools or work with our parents and students,” Jackson said.
Daily recess is already in place at all elementary schools in Coweta as a policy, he said. The school system has never required vaccinations and has no longer implemented face mask requirements.
While “much debate” surrounded HB 1084, Jackson said its principles appear to be aimed at protecting the voice of students and teachers while keeping politics out of the classroom.
“It doesn’t contradict our approach to education at all, as far as we can tell,” he said.
As for HB 1178, its final version doesn’t require anything that isn’t already Coweta County school system policy or practice, according to Jackson.
“We are a student-centered, parent-centered school system,” he said. “We encourage parent involvement and parent questions, so the wording of this bill is already a well-established practice in our schools.
Key Georgia K-12 Education Legislation
The following education-related bills passed the 2022 session of the Georgia General Assembly. Governor Brian Kemp has until May 14 to sign or veto the bills.
HB 385 (The “Back to Work” Bill): From July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2026, 30-year-old education veterans will be allowed to return to work in specific fields. Effective July 1, 2022.
HB 517: Increases the amounts donors can give to scholarship organizations so they can give vouchers to private schools and the donor can get a dollar-for-dollar income tax credit. Allows insurance companies to use donations to support at least a portion of their insurance premium taxes. Adds the recommendations of the Audit Department. Effective July 1, 2022. (Increased tax credits effective January 1, 2023.)
HB 997: Grants a statewide ad valorem exemption on forestry equipment if voters approve it in November. Effective January 1, 2023, if approved by voters.
HB 1084 (The “Divisive Concepts” Bill): Requires an executive oversight committee for the Georgia High School Association (or any other high school association that fits the description) and leaves it up to them to sort out transgender participation to girls’ sports. Requires a local council complaints resolution policy by 1 August 2022 and details a complaints and appeals process. Effective July 1, 2022.
HB 1178 (The “Parents’ Bill of Rights”): Requires a policy or by-law to deal with complaints and appeals. Most of the language is already entitled in other places. Effective July 1, 2022.
HB 1215: Charter school bill that requires school districts to have a universal, streamlined transfer process that will allow students to transfer to charter without penalty. Effective July 1, 2022.
HB 1283 (The “Recess Bill”): Kemp vetoed in 2019, prevents local school boards from banning recess. Effective July 1, 2022.
HB 1292: Allows students who attend 4-H events to be counted in attendance. Effective July 1, 2022.
HB 1303: Extends an elementary agricultural education program to all districts willing to fund it and hire an agricultural education teacher to teach it. Effective July 1, 2022.
HB 1461: Requires cities to notify school districts affected by annexation – in a verifiable manner that the effort is underway. Effective July 1, 2022.
SB 152: Adds “courage” to the state flag pledge, requiring that the curriculum including the pledge be updated. Effective July 1, 2022.
SB 220: Requires a financial literacy course for grades 11 and 12 and for it to be a graduation requirement; allows it to be part of an existing course; and demands that the Professional Standards Commission circumvent this requirement. Also creates a Georgia Civics Commission to be repealed on December 31, 2028.
CS 226: Addresses the possible distribution of harmful materials to minors. Requires local council policy by January 1, 2023 and model Georgia Department of Education policy by September 1, 2022. Includes complaints and appeals process. Effective July 1, 2022.
CS 337: Suspends compensation to public officials when charged with a crime. Once reinstated, the public officer would recover his salary. Effective July 1, 2022.
SB 345: Prohibits states and local governments from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine to enter a facility or receive a service. Effective July 1, 2022 and will be revoked June 30, 2023.
SB 514 (The “Georgia Unmasked Student Act”): Requires any policy, regulation, or rule requiring students to wear masks to include a parental opt-out option. Kemp has already signed SB 514, which has been in effect since March 29 and will be repealed on June 30, 2027.
SB 588: Requires all local school board meetings to be open to the public, unless otherwise permitted by law. Requires local councils to adopt rules of conduct for meetings by October 1, 2022 and to adopt them annually by August 1. Participants could only be expelled from meetings in accordance with the rules adopted. Effective July 1, 2022.
HR 650 creates an internal study committee on literacy.
SR 650 creates a Senate study committee to examine education funding mechanisms.
SR 802 creates a Senate study committee on transparency in high school sports associations.
(Summaries provided by the Georgia School Boards Association.)