Students, teachers and parents need a centralized place to send any complaints about “indoctrination” in North Carolina’s classroom, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said Tuesday.
Most teachers don’t get into politics with their students, Robinson said, but some do. And while there have long been rumors of indoctrination efforts, or one-off stories about a teacher’s controversial lesson plan, Robinson said he hopes to soon be able to show people just how widespread it might be.
“People say, ‘Well, where’s the proof?’ Where’s the proof?’” said Robinson, a Republican who took office in January. “We’re going to bring you the proof.”
That’s the goal of a new task force he’s creating to collect complaints from parents, students and teachers in public schools from across the state “who are literally afraid to speak up” to their local school boards.
“We want this task force to be a resource for parents and students who feel that they are unable to tackle the issues that they are facing in their schools,” Robinson said. “And trust me folks, that is happening in this state.”
People who want to learn more, or file a complaint, can do so at ltgov.nc.gov/facts.
‘Besieged’ by complaints
Robinson said that when he was campaigning for office in 2020, he was “besieged by folks who were complaining about things their students and their children were having to learn in public schools, that were contrary to their own beliefs.”
The chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Bobbie Richardson, said there’s nothing political about teaching the facts about issues like racism. Robinson has also strongly criticized proposed new standards for social studies courses that would have an increased focus on racial discrimination.
“Growing up in Franklin County, although we were post Brown v. Board of Education, I still attended a segregated public school,” Richardson said. “And as a former educator, I know that teaching our nation’s history requires taking an honest look at social injustices and movements that have made our country the more equal society it is today.”
But while racial issues have recently been in the news due to the high-profile fight over those new social studies standards, some of the conservative activists who attended Robinson’s news conference Tuesday were more concerned about religion — particularly teachers amplifying LGBT issues.
One man told Robinson that he pulled his son out of Wake County Schools in elementary school because his teacher gave the class a reading assignment about a transgender person. The man refused an interview with The News & Observer after the event to confirm his story or offer any specifics.
What power will task force have?
Republican Sen. Kevin Corbin of Macon County is one of the people Robinson chose to be on the task force, along with Republican Rep. David Willis of Union County, several school board members from across the state, and others.
“I think we need to get out of a defensive posture, get into a proactive posture,” Corbin said.
But it’s unclear what power the task force will actually have to investigate complaints, beyond using the bully pulpit to publicize them. Robinson said Tuesday he had not yet spoken with state legislative leaders about giving the task force more powers.
He also said he’s not in favor of either left-wing or right-wing politics in the classroom. But when teachers do discriminate against a view, he said, it’s often against conservatives. Robinson said one girl recently told him she had wanted to do a report on him for Black History Month, since he is the first Black lieutenant governor in North Carolina history and the first Black Republican elected to any major office since Reconstruction.
However, Robinson said, the girl’s teacher told him she couldn’t write a report on him and made her write about Tupac Shakur instead. He took that personally.
“You might not like my politics,” he said. “But I made history in this state.”
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