NHC school board passes controversial professional standards policy
At Wednesday night’s New Hanover Board of Education meeting, members voted to pass the controversial policy 7205, which creates new professional standards of conduct. Proponents say it clears up 'grey areas' about what's permissible in the classroom; critics say its punitive and could be used to threaten teachers.
Policy 7205 refers to the professional standards policy. The controversial section is commonly referred to as ‘Section Z.' It bars teachers from voicing 13 specific beliefs in the classroom.
The list of prohibited beliefs includes:
- One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex
- An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive
- An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex
- An individual's moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex
- An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex
- Any individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress
- A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist
- The United States was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex
- The United States government should be violently overthrown
- Particular character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs should be ascribed to a race or sex or to an individual because of the individual's race or sex;
- The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups
- All Americans are not created equal and are not endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
- Governments should deny to any person within the government's jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.
The language comes verbatim from House Bill 187, filed in February of 2023.
Supporters of the policy, including board member Pat Bradford, say it creates uniformity across classrooms of what can and can’t be taught.
“Section Z number 9 says that ‘our teachers shall not teach that the American government should be violently overthrown.' There’s no law that says that? That’s treason. We don’t want that taught, it’s that simple," she said.
Board member Josie Barnhart, who was the policy committee chair at the time of crafting this policy, said it gets rid of the “gray area” of what teachers can and can’t say in class.
Barnhart referred to complaints she had heard where teachers “stepped over the line” during lessons to suggest certain beliefs about race.
Policy violations can trigger an HR investigation. Because of this, critics worry the policy can be politicized and weaponized against teachers when talking about difficult topics in American history.
Board member Hugh McManus expressed his frustration, saying it didn’t matter how much conversation they had, the conservative members of the board had the votes to push section Z through. He called the policy punitive.
“We dare you to go out on a ledge. If you make a mistake and go out on the ledge, we’re going to push you off," McManus said.
The policy, including section Z, passed — with members Stephanie Walker, Stephanie Kraybill, and McManus dissenting.