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Senate committee kills "divisive concepts" bill, members poised to kill House version, too

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Lawmakers are divided over what, exactly, is divisive.

The idea that the General Assembly can ban inherently divisive concepts from the classroom? Well that's an inherently divisive idea in the Senate Education Committee, where Chairwoman Louise Lucas says her committee is not about to pass any bill outlawing lesson plans that make some people feel uncomfortable.

"I grew up during Massive Resistance. My schools were closed down for four years," Lucas explains. "So if I try to teach that to somebody because it makes other folks feel uncomfortable because they didn't want Black kids to be in school with white kids, which was the whole premise for Massive Resistance. Is that a divisive concept? Give me your definition."

The bill defines an inherently divisive concept as anything that's in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Delegate Glenn Davis is chairman of the House Education Committee, and he says lawmakers need to take action against some of the things that have been going on in Virginia schools.

"What this says is you cannot in a classroom tell a child that they are a victim or an oppressor today because of the color of their skin," Davis says. "And you can't tell any child that they are inferior to another child because of their race or ethnicity or their sex."

A bill outlawing inherently divisive concepts from the classroom is currently working its way through the Republican-controlled House, although the Senate Education Committee has already killed a similar version of the bill — and Lucas says senators are ready to do it again.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.