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Lawmakers bringing back divisive concepts bill, considering DEI

Legislation prohibiting “divisive” teaching in classrooms and state workers’ training will be back this session. Whether it is expanded to regulate diversity, equity and inclusion spending and activities in higher education is to be determined, Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road, told Alabama Daily News recently.

“We’re certainly going to have the divisive concepts bill or a tweak of that from last year,” Barfoot said. “We may wind up including some of that DEI language in there. But we haven’t made a firm decision on that, nor have we worked on all the language, if it  were to be out there.”

Last year, Barfoot and Rep. Ed Oliver, R-Dadeville, sponsored bills prohibiting schools, state agencies and universities from directing students and employees to learn a list of “divisive concepts” including that “fault, blame, or bias should be assigned to a  race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin” or that a student or worker should “assent to a sense of guilt, complicity, or a need to apologize” because of their race, gender or national origin.

Both bills had significant Republican support last year and opposition from Democrats and some educators. A new bill could move early in this session but Barfoot said it won’t be rushed.

“We’re gonna make sure that we do it right,” he said. “We try to accomplish the goals that we set forward without hurting anybody. We want to make sure that it’s done the right way and then, certainly, we’ll have some conversations with  some folks that may have opposition to it.”

Several Republican-led states have in recent years targeted diversity efforts and activities, and their funding, saying they’re disruptive and unnecessary. Florida this month banned the use of state or federal dollars for diversity programs. A 2023 law there also prohibits tax money from being used to fund “political or social activism.”

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