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Critics slam GOP for resurrecting bill about policing race inside Arizona classrooms

Senate Bill 1412 would restrict educators from teaching on certain topics of race, discrimination and sex. Teachers could face fines of $5,000 dollars.

PHOENIX — Advocates want Arizona House Republicans to read the room after 19 elementary school students and two teachers were slaughtered by a gunman at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas earlier this week. 

“This is tone-deaf. This is abhorrent to bring this bill that polices teachers and does nothing to help our students in a week like this,” teacher and director of Save Our Schools Arizona Beth Lewis said. 

Lewis and others gathered in the House on Wednesday as Senate Bill 1412 was resurrected after stalling for several weeks. The bill would put limitations on educators teaching lessons that would appear to place blame or judgment on anyone based on race or ethnicity. 

“Representative Udal bringing this bill and putting it on the agenda this week of all weeks after 19 babies and two teachers were killed," said Lewis. "We should be trying to talk about how to protect our kids and our teachers.”  

Politics over a problem that doesn't exist 

The debate ended in a 31-27 vote along party lines and will head back to the Senate. 

Republican Rep. Michelle Udall, who is also a teacher and former member of the Mesa School Board, spearheaded the bill and as of Thursday did not respond to 12 News for comment. 

The bill specifically exempts teaching about "historical moments, ideologies or instances of racial hatred or discrimination, including but not limited to slavery, Indian removal, the Holocaust or Japanese-American internment." 

"This type of strategy to politicize what happens in our classrooms does nothing but hurt our children and furthermore hurt our ability to become a stronger democracy," Vice President of Arizona Education Association and civics teacher, Marisol Garcia said.  

"The folks that are in the classroom every day are not listening to what’s on the floor, they just want to be supported and nurtured the same way that we support and nurture our students.”  

Critics say the bill would turn educators into the boogeyman and create an unnecessary barrier between teachers and their students based on the political fear of the so-called critical race theory that is not being taught in Arizona classrooms. 

"Those women who died (in Uvalde, Texas) were not boogeymen," said Garcia. "They were willing to sacrifice their lives. This is about an election happening in five or six months and people are trying to make (voters) afraid of something that isn't happening." 

The bill now goes back to the Senate. 

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