WV Legislature Removes Higher-Ed from “Anti-Racism” and Identity Teaching Bill


Tyler Spence

On Monday, West Virginia lawmakers removed universities from being targeted in a bill that would dictate how lessons on race and identity can be taught in school after college professors roundly criticized the legislation.

Isabella Robinson, Lead Reporter

After a public hearing on Monday where several West Virginia University professors spoke against a bill that they said would stifle freedom of expression in their classrooms, West Virginia lawmakers removed universities from being included. 

Professors roundly criticized the legislation that would dictate how lessons on race and identity can be taught in the classroom and schools. 

The legislation follows a national pattern of Republican state legislators pushing for “anti-racism” guidelines in schools, often in direct response to the fear of Critical Race Theory being taught in schools. 

“We’re concerned that this bill will limit the ability of faculty to exercise those rights to design educational content,” said the WVU Faculty Senate’s chair-elect, engineering professor Scott Wayne. 

Before their omission, last Wednesday, the West Virginia Senate passed a bill that would prevent public K-12 schools and public colleges and universities across the state from teaching that any race is superior to another or that students should feel guilty because of their race. 

The bill creates a reporting mechanism for people, including students, “aggrieved by an alleged violation” to complain about educators to school authorities, state officials and ultimately the legislature. 

The Republican majority in the senate greenlit the legislation 21-12, last Wednesday despite objections from multiple Democrats, including the legislature’s only Black lawmaker, who said the policy was “a step backward.” 

Democrats and organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia are opposed to the legislation because of concerns about limiting free speech and censorship in schools. 

Democratic Sen. Owens Brown, who is the former president of the West Virginia NAACP and is the first Black man to serve in the state senate, said there is no evidence that any teachers in West Virginia are teaching students that one race is superior to another. 

He accused Republicans of using the bill as a “weapon or tool in their campaigns” and stoking unnecessary fear among citizens. 

“It’s been told to you over and over again that it wasn’t taught in the public school but here we are still trying to say it’s being inserted into public schools for political purposes and for political gain,” he said. “And that’s not right, because you’re turning people against each other.” 

The “Anti-Racism Act of 2022” — Senate Bill 498 — prevents the teaching in both public K-12 schools that one race, ethnic group or biological sex is superior to another, that one group is “inherently racist, sexist or oppressive” and that people should be discriminated against or “receive adverse treatment” because of those identities. 

It also includes a provision that says students should not be taught that a person’s moral character is determined by their race, ethnicity or biological sex, that a person should not be made to feel “discomfort, guilt or anguish” because of that identity and that “academic achievement, meritocracy, or traits such as hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race, ethnic group or biological sex to oppress” another.