BOISE — On Friday morning the House Education Committee voted unanimously to introduce a bill to prohibit schools from teaching students about “racist or sexist concepts.” Any school violating this could be subject to a withholding of up to 10% of funding from the State Board of Education. Committee Democrats walked out of the hearing in a show of opposition. They did not participate in the vote.
The committee took place shortly before House members met to discuss recessing until April 6 due to concerns of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Statehouse. It was one of just two committees that chose to meet despite the looming recess.
Citing the need to “keep this extremely short,” Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, said there would be no questions about the proposed bills. Boyle, who approved the hearing of this proposed bill, is filling in for Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls. Clow was out due to testing positive for COVID-19.
“That’s not how the process works,” Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, said of not being allowed to ask questions.
Prior to his speaking on his bill, sponsor Idaho Republican Region IV Chairman Ed Humphreys set up a video camera to film himself.
“We took a crack at the racist filth being taught to our students!” he later wrote on Facebook.
“They had a camera set up. It was nothing more than political theater. We weren’t going to dignify that by our presence,” Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise, said.
The committee’s three Democrats, Tooney, Berch and Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City, walked out prior to the committee’s start in a show of opposition to the proposed bill. McCrostie later said they were trying to prevent the committee from having the necessary 51% of members present. They were hopeful their absence and the additional COVID-19 absences would mean it could not proceed. In the end, their attempt fell short by one person. Four others were out sick. The committee had eight of its 15 members present.
“We should not be introducing bills that say that you can’t discuss racism and sexism, particularly when the state faces so many more pressing education issues,” McCrostie said.
According to the bill, some of the things public schools, charter schools and any state higher education institute would no longer be allowed to teach students include:
- An individual’s race or sex means they are consciously or unconsciously racist, sexist or oppressive.
- An individual bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by members of the same race or sex.
- Merit-based systems are either racist or sexist.
- The state of Idaho is fundamentally racist or sexist.